12/02/2013, 00.00
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Bangkok: police use rubber bullets in clashes with anti-government protesters

The prime minister rejects calls for her resignation, but is willing to dialogue with the opposition. Protest leaders ultimatum of "two days" for the government to quit. For now, the army remains on sidelines. Sources tell AsiaNews that the protest is degenerating and the effects on the economy are already visible.

Bangkok ( AsiaNews) - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has rejected opposition demands for her resignation, while protests in the streets of Bangkok become increasingly violent. Clashes are ongoing between anti-government protesters and police, who began firing rubber bullets to disperse the crowd and prevent their entry into the compound that houses the offices of the Prime Minister and other executive offices in the capital. So far, the army has remained neutral , while the Prime Minister has (again) made the offer of dialogue, stressing that she is still available for talks while reiterating that the priority is to "respect the Constitution." Local sources report that the weekend left at least four people dead and dozens wounded, in an escalation of violence that threatens to replicate the dramatic eventsof spring 2010.

The main aim of the popular uprising is the resignation of the government led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra , accused of being a "puppet" in the hands of her brother Thaksin , the billionaire and former prime minister who fled into exile to escape a sentence of two years in prison. In reality, the current government was democratically elected in 2011 and enjoys consensus in large parts of Thailand.  Moreover, on 28 November it survived a no-confidence motion tabled by the opposition in Parliament (297 votes against 134).

The anti -government protests - a mix of members of the middle class, royalists and inhabitants of the areas to the south of the country - are the largest since 2010, when the kingdom was shaken by a wave of unrest that ended with a bloodbath and the deaths of 90 civilians . The protesters , tens of thousands so far, are calling for the end of the "Thaksin regime " to be replaced - without an election - by a so-called " people's council", branded as " unconstitutional " by the prime minister.

Suthep Thaugsuban , opposition leader, has granted two days to the government to resign and seems intent on stirring up more and more street protests , accelerating the political and institutional crisis .

AsiaNews sources in Thailand confirm that "the situation is getting out of hand," according to some rumors ( unfounded ), the premier "is about to flee" and "the violence is set to escalate". The protesters want to besiege the Parliament , while the police are at a crossroads: " If they come down too hard, the opposition will have reason to complain - says the source - but if they are weak, the protesters will take advantage ." It is clear, the source adds, that "there is no clear way out and this is a matter of growing concern".  What's more the crisis has already affected the economy, which " is losing millions and tourism is in crisis because of canceled bookings".

With the fall of the Thaksin's administration in 2006, Thailand saw a wave of protests that led to social and political instability. The latest chapter was triggered by the government's amnesty bill, which would (among other things) allow Thaksin Shinawatra to return from exile. The proposal, which was recently rejected by the Senate, has also angered government supporters because it would have pardoned those responsible for the massacres of 2010. For Prime Minister Yingluck's government, which has a big majority in parliament and is not likely to lose a vote in the House, this is the most critical time since she came to power in 2011.



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