Thai protesters give PM deadline to step down

A supporter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra wearing his mask at a protest in Bangkok on Thursday.
Anti-government protesters have issued a Thursday deadline for Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down.

If their ultimatum isn’t accepted by 4 p.m. (5 a.m. ET), the protesters will intensify their efforts to destabilize the government, said Jatuporn Prompan, one of the protest leaders. Jatuporn did not elaborate on the threatened measures. Abhisit has said he cannot comply with the protesters’ demands, calling them confusing and unclear. Thailand is in the midst of a political crisis, with thousands of “red shirt” protesters amassed outside government headquarters. The protesters, named for their clothing, say Abhisit was not democratically elected. They want him to schedule elections. The protesters are loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. He fled Bangkok last year while facing trial on corruption charges. Watch more about the “red shirt” rally ยป

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On Wednesday night, Thaksin spoke to the crowd in a broadcast, saying the movement is not about him. “It’s about our country, our people and the future generation,” he said. “We want a Thailand that has liberty, equality and fraternity.” Protesters are also gathered at the Royal Plaza, a public square in Bangkok, and at the house of Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of the Privy Council, a group of advisers to the country’s king. They accuse Prem of masterminding Thaksin’s coup. Prem denies it. The demonstrators ebb and flow in numbers. Attendance reached almost 100,000 Wednesday but fell Thursday morning, said Metropolitan Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Suporn Pansuea. Lawmakers named the 44-year-old, Oxford University-educated Abhisit prime minister in December. Before then, a party loyal to Thaksin was in power — and Thailand was contending with another group of protesters. Those demonstrators — the “yellow shirts” — wanted Thaksin to return to Thailand to face the corruption charges. And they wanted the Thaksin-aligned People Power Party, which came to power in a general election, to step down. Months of protests followed. Demonstrators occupied the government headquarters and blockaded Bangkok’s major international airport, stranding tourists who provide much of the country’s revenue.

The demonstrations ended in early December when a court ruled that the People Power Party was guilty of electoral fraud and threw Thaksin’s brother-in-law out of the prime minister’s seat. The red-shirt protesters said this week that they would not take over airports.