02/28/2014, 00.00
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Bangkok: Tension mounts amid renewed protests. Opposition leader challenges Premier to TV debate

Opposition leaders announced renewed demonstrations around ministries and Shinawatra offices. Suthep Thaugsuban proposes a televised debate and accuses the government of killing "innocent children". The government rejects the proposal. Yingluck is under investigation for "negligence" in office and risks trial.

Bangkok ( AsiaNews / Agencies) - Anti-government protesters have announced a new round of protest in front of ministries and offices linked to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in an attempt to keep the pressure on the executive and force her to resign . Tension and violence is mounting with attacks and bombings on a daily basis, so much so that several foreign embassies - including Australia and the US - have raised the alert level for their fellow citizens. Meanwhile, the leader of the revolt has opened - albeit vaguely - to the possibility of negotiations with the government.  Yesterday Suthep Thaugsuban proposed a live televised debate with the Prime Minister. However, a few hours later, during a rally, he also accused the government of being responsible (according to him) for the two bomb attacks against protesters last weekend.

The protest movement that began in November last year wants to see the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who is accused of being a "puppet" in the hands of her brother Thaksin, a billionaire and former prime minister who is in exile to avoid a two-year prison sentence. The latter is disliked by many people close to the monarchy, who fear he might seek to weaken the system, which is particularly fragile at a time when King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 86, is in poor health.

After launching the idea of ​​a televised debate, Suthep harangued the crowd blaming Prime Minister Yingluck for the deaths of "four innocent children", while daring the people of the north and north- east (mostly farmers linked to the Shinawatra family) to come to the capital and "start a civil war". "Let's see - added the opposition leader in a crescendo of threats - who can gather more supporters".

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister who is currently in Chiang Mai - northern Thailand - has responded tepidly to the possibility of a televised debate. "The talks have to have a framework, though I am not sure what that framework would look like" she said, adding; "But many parties have to be involved because I alone cannot answer on behalf of the Thai people".  Even the Minister of Labour Chalerm Yoobamrung rejected the idea of a televised debate, noting that "Yingluck is the legitimate leader of the country" while just Suthep is the leader of an "illegal movement" with "arrest warrants" weighing on his shoulders.

Meanwhile yesterday, Yingluck was expected appear before the Anti-Corruption Commission , to answer charges of "negligence" in the discharge of her duties of office. The reference is to the government plan of subsidies linked to production of rice, which has left thousands of farmers with no money and almost drained the state coffers. The prime minister was formally indicted and if found guilty, faces up to five years' disqualification from public office . The lawyers have until March 14 to disprove the charges, otherwise she will be brought to court.

The anti -government protests - a mix of members of the middle class, royalists and the inhabitants of the south - are the biggest since 2010, when the kingdom was shaken by a series of riots that ended in bloodshed and death 90 civilians. According to sources in the Medical Department of Bangkok, the death toll since the crisis is at least 22 dead and over 700 injured. February 2, elections were held - boycotted by the opposition Democratic Party - which sanctioned the victory of Shinawatra's Pheu Thai Party, but the vote is not yet final; some provinces of the south still have to vote , an area seen as a democratic stronghold.


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