Thailand’s opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for elections scheduled for July to be pushed back by up to six months.
In a 10-point package of proposals, Abhisit Vejjajiva said PM Yingluck Shinawatra and her government should resign, allowing an interim cabinet to oversee a referendum on reforms.
Yingluck Shinawatra has not responded to the proposals yet.
Thailand has been in political deadlock since anti-government protests began in Bangkok in November 2013.
Yingluck Shinawatra’s government announced the July 20 polls after a previous snap election in February was declared unconstitutional.
Thailand’s opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for elections scheduled for July to be pushed back by up to six months
The ruling Pheu Thai party had been expected to win the February vote. However, the opposition boycotted the polls and protesters disrupted voting.
At the height of the anti-government demonstrations, protesters shut down key road junctions and blockaded government ministries. Their number has since declined.
On Saturday, Abhisit Vejjajiva said his opposition Democrat party would not contest July’s polls.
The main proposals in his 10-point plan are:
- July’s planned elections are delayed. A reform council drafts a plan of reforms, which are sent for a national referendum
- The current government resigns and a non-partisan interim government is appointed.
- Following the national referendum, new elections are held
- The new elected government must carry out the reform plans. A fresh election will then be held within a year
However, Jarupong Ruangsuwan, leader of the ruling Pheu Thai party, told Reuters news agency: “The government cannot accept Abhisit’s plan because it is outside the framework of the constitution.”
The plan would “only increase divisions in Thai society,” he said, adding: “Asking the government to resign is tantamount to ripping up the constitution.”
Abhisit Vejjajiva acknowledged that he and his Democrat party were partly responsible for the political mess Thailand was in, and said he was offering a way out.
Yingluck Shinawatra faces a court verdict next week which could result in her being barred from politics for five years, a result her supporters say they would view as tantamount to a coup.
Pheu Thai party and Yingluck Shinawatra remain very popular in rural areas.
Thailand’s main opposition party has decided to boycott snap elections set for February 2, 2014.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told a news conference it would not be fielding candidates, saying: “Thai politics is at a failed stage.”
PM Yingluck Shinawatra called the election earlier this month in a bid to end weeks of mass protests.
The head of the Thai army has warned the country’s political divisions could “trigger a civil war”.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha has proposed a “people’s assembly” – made up of civilians from both sides, not the leaders, to heal the divisions.
The opposition-backed protests in Bangkok have caused Thailand’s most serious political turmoil since 2010.
Yingluck Shinawatra won the last elections in 2011, but protesters say her brother – the controversial ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra – remains in charge.
At his news conference, Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters his party had agreed it would not field candidates in the snap elections.
Thailand’s main opposition party has decided to boycott snap elections set for February
“The Thai people have lost their faith in the democratic system,” he said.
The prime minister dissolved parliament and called the election on December 9 in a bid, she said, to avoid violence on the streets and “to give back the power to the Thai people”.
Her Pheu Thai party has a majority in parliament, and draws significant support from Thailand’s rural areas. It is seen as well-placed to win February’s election.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha said he was deeply concerned by the latest crisis, with divisions not just in Bangkok but across the whole country.
“The situation could trigger a civil war,” he told the Bangkok Post.
Setting out his vision of a “people’s assembly”, he said it should be made up of people from both sides of the political divide – known as the “red shirts”, those who support Thaksin Shinawatra, and the “yellow shirts”, those who oppose him.
“It must be from a neutral group and comprise non-core representatives of all colors, and all color leaders must be excluded,” he said.
General Prayuth Chan-ocha did not give details on how or when the assembly would be set up, but said any proposal “must come from a public consensus and the public must brainstorm how to reach that consensus”.
He stressed his grouping would be different to the “people’s council” proposed by the opposition.
“The people’s assembly must not be organized or sponsored by any conflicting group, as it would not be accepted by the other side,” he said.
His comments came after a defense council meeting on Friday to discuss the February 2 election.
Defense spokesman Col Thanatip Sawangsaeng said the army “is ready to support the Election Commission in organizing the elections when asked”.
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Former Thailand’s PM Abhisit Vejjajiva has been formally charged with murder in connection with a crackdown on demonstrators in 2010.
More than 90 people died in clashes during the 2010 protests.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, who leads the opposition Democrat Party, denied the charges and was granted bail.
The indictment came as protests against current PM Yingluck Shinawatra continued, and protesters briefly entered Government House.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who was Abhisit Vejjajiva’s deputy in 2010, also faces charges but has asked the court to postpone his hearing.
Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban were in power when thousands of supporters of ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra occupied parts of Bangkok. They authorized the army to clear the protesters.
Abhisit Vejjajiva has been formally charged with murder in connection with a crackdown on demonstrators in 2010
The charges relate to the shooting deaths of a 43-year-old taxi driver and a 14-year-old during the crackdown.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, protesters briefly broke into Government House, and later cut off the office’s power supply, reports said.
Anti-government protesters want Yingluck Shinawatra to resign and for her government to be replaced with an unelected “People’s Council”.
They say that Thaksin Shinawatra, who is also Yingluck Shinawatra’s brother, controls the ruling Pheu Thai party.
Abhisit Vejjajiva and other Democrat Party lawmakers resigned from parliament on Sunday so that they could join the protesters.
On Monday, Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament and announced general elections for February 2nd, 2014, as 150,000 protesters surrounded Government House.
However, she has refused to resign before the elections.
Yingluck Shinwatra’s Pheu Thai party has a majority in parliament, and draws significant support from Thailand’s rural areas. The party is seen as well-placed to win February’s election.
However, protesters accuse it of using public funds irresponsibly to secure votes, including on a controversial rice subsidy scheme which hurt Thailand’s exports.
Thaksin Shinwatra is in self-imposed exile after he was overthrown in a military coup in 2006 and convicted of corruption.
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Abhisit Vejjajiva, the former Thai prime minister, has been charged with murder over the death of a taxi driver shot by soldiers during political violence.
Abhisit Vejjajiva was prime minister when thousands of protesters took to the streets in 2010 demanding his government step down.
He gave orders allowing troops to use live ammunition on protesters, who had shut down parts of Bangkok.
Abhisit Vejjajiva denies the charge, which supporters say is politically motivated.
More than 90 people, both civilians and soldiers, were killed in the protests, which went on for over two months.
Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy at the time, Suthep Thaugsuban, are the first officials to face charges in connection with the deaths.
The move was announced last week, after a court ruled in September that taxi driver Phan Kamkong had been killed by troops.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, the former Thai prime minister, has been charged with murder over the death of a taxi driver shot by soldiers during political violence
Now the leader of the opposition, Abhisit Vejjajiva has defended his order for live ammunition to be used, saying government forces had “very little option” but to act when live fire was used against them.
“We tried to negotiate with the protesters, and they wouldn’t accept any of the deals that we offered them,” he said.
“It was our duty to restore order, and that’s what we were trying to do.”
Abhisit Vejjajiva said he would fight to prove he was not guilty.
Elections held after the protests, in July 2011, were won by the party led by Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister whom many of the protesters backed.
Twenty-four protest leaders are also being prosecuted on terrorism charges.