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