|Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has rejected the demands of anti-government protesters, who are attempting to topple her government and replace it with a “people’s council’, saying the demonstrations are unconstitutional.
“Anything I can do to make people happy, I am willing to do… but as prime minister, what I can do must be under the constitution,” she said in a televised address on Monday on her first comments since violence broke out late on Saturday after weeks of peaceful protests.
“The armed forces will be neutral and I know they want to see the country in peace,” the prime minister said, adding her immediate aim was to restore “peace” to the capital restive streets. She also vowed that “police will not use force against the people”.
Her comments came amid fresh skirmishes between Thai security forces and opposition demonstrators.
Police used tear gas and water cannons at the heavily guarded government headquarters to drive thousands of protesters back, as demonstrators hurled sticks, stones, bottles and other projectiles at security forces, manning barriers at the besieged complex.
‘Live ammunition used’
Al Jazeera’s Robert Kennedy, reporting from Bangkok, said that a group of protesters about 200 metres away from the government office claimed live ammunition was fired earlier in the day, showing photos of a man with what looked like a gunshot wound to the thigh, and what looked like a bullet hole that had pierced a silver truck.
Thana Narkboonnam, 49, an anti-government protester, told Al Jazeera: “We want a revolution to be able to choose better representatives. This government is full of corruption, the political system needs to be entirely changed.”
Loud periodic booms rang out as tear gas canisters were launched, Kennedy said, adding that he saw medics rush a wounded man on a stretcher into an ambulance with a wound to the right side of his torso.
The protesters had set Sunday as “Victory Day” to topple the government, but failed to achieve their goal of seizing the prime minister’s office.
The United Nations closed its main office in Bangkok, dozens of schools stayed empty and many civil servants did not show up at work on Monday after the unrest that rippled around the key government buildings in the capital over the weekend.
In an e-mailed statement to its staff, the UN’s security department said that “there could be violence [on Monday] on a large scale… staff should avoid government offices” and other protest locations.
Protest leader meets PM
Oppsition leader Suthep Thaungsuban said on Sunday that he met Yingluck Shinawatra but insisted there were no negotiations to end the political crisis.
Thaungsuban said he told the prime minister that the opposition would accept nothing less than her resignation and an appointed council taking over the government.
The protests were triggered by an amnesty bill, which opponents feared would have allowed Thaksin Shinawatra to return to the country.
PM Yingluck Shinawatra told Al Jazeera on Sunday that the government was no longer trying to pass the controversial bill that would have pardoned many people involved in corruption.
The latest conflict in Thailand put Bangkok’s urban population against the rural supporters of Shinawatras.
Political instability has plagued Thailand since the removal of Thaksin Shinawatra from his seat in a 2006 coup.
Two years later, anti-Thaksin protesters occupied Bangkok’s two airports for a week after taking over the prime minister’s office for three months.