Leader re­jects pro­test­ers’ dead­line

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Grant Peck Grant Peck is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

BANGKOK — Thai­land’s gov­ern­ment and the coun­try’s prodemoc­racy move­ment ap­peared no closer to re­solv­ing their dif­fer­ences Satur­day, as the pro­test­ers’ dead­line for Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chanocha to step down came and went with no new ac­tion from ei­ther side, and no back­ing down.

After the 10 p.m. dead­line passed, pro­test­ers called an­other rally for cen­tral Bangkok on Sun­day, at a ma­jor in­ter­sec­tion in the cap­i­tal’s main shop­ping district.

Prayuth told sup­port­ers Satur­day even­ing as he left a Bud­dhist tem­ple where a prayer ses­sion was held for na­tional peace and pros­per­ity that he would not quit. “The gov­ern­ment is sin­cere in solv­ing the prob­lem and com­mit­ted to fol­low­ing the law in do­ing so,” he said.

Prayuth’s of­fice had is­sued a state­ment ear­lier in the day re­peat­ing his plea to re­solve dif­fer­ences through Par­lia­ment, which will dis­cuss the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in a spe­cial ses­sion start­ing Mon­day.

“Although the on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion com­prises many op­pos­ing views among dif­fer­ent groups, we should rather take this as an op­por­tu­nity

for Thais to con­sult each other on what is best for the na­tion,” the state­ment said.

Prayuth this past week is­sued a call to al­low Par­lia­ment to seek a so­lu­tion to the cri­sis and, in a ges­ture to ap­pease the pro­test­ers, re­voked a state of emer­gency for Bangkok he had im­posed a week ear­lier that made protest ral­lies il­le­gal.

The pro­test­ers, how­ever, said they would stick to their dead­line for Prayuth to meet their de­mands that he re­sign and that their ar­rested com­rades be re­leased from jail. They have shown no

en­thu­si­asm for leav­ing mat­ters in the hands of Par­lia­ment.

In ad­di­tion to call­ing for Prayuth’s res­ig­na­tion, the pro­test­ers’ core de­mands in­clude a more demo­cratic con­sti­tu­tion and re­forms to the monar­chy.

The pro­test­ers charge that Prayuth, who as then­army com­man­der led a 2014 coup, was re­turned to power un­fairly in last year’s gen­eral elec­tion be­cause laws had been changed to fa­vor a promil­i­tary party. The pro­test­ers also say that a con­sti­tu­tion writ­ten and passed un­der mil­i­tary

rule is un­demo­cratic.

The im­plicit crit­i­cism of the monar­chy, which pro­test­ers be­lieve wields too much power, has irked con­ser­va­tive Thais who treat the roy­als as sacro­sanct and a pil­lar of na­tional iden­tity.

There is con­cern that the sit­u­a­tion may be­come more volatile. In the past week there has been a mo­bi­liza­tion of forces who claim to be de­fend­ers of the monar­chy. Roy­al­ists held ral­lies in sev­eral cities, in many cases led by lo­cal civil ser­vants.

Jack Tay­lor / AFP / Getty Images

Prodemoc­racy demon­stra­tors raise their sig­na­ture three­fin­ger salute in the cap­i­tal of Bangkok as they call on Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chanocha to re­sign.

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