Amid a massive protest campaign in the capital, the government of embattled premier Yingluck Shinawatra has said February elections will go ahead as planned. Protesters continue to block major intersections in Bangkok.
Thailand's government said Wednesday that the February 2 election will go ahead despite mounting pressure from protesters.
Prime Minister Yingluck had invited protest leader and head of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Suthep Thaugsuban, and political parties to discuss a proposal to delay the general election. However, the opposition refused her invitation and rejected the poll, demanding that an unelected "people's council" be appointed instead that could make reforms to the political system.
"We believe the election will bring the situation back to normal," Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana told reporters. "We can see that the support of Mr. Suthep is declining. When he is doing something against the law, most people do not support that."
Yingluck called the snap elections after dissolving parliament on December 9 in a bid to ease tension that had been flaring since November.
On Monday, protesters launched a "Bangkok shutdown" campaign with tens of thousands of protesters occupying key intersections in the capital, which they have vowed to occupy until Prime Minister Yingluck and her ruling Pheu Thai Party steps down.
The opposition claims Yingluck is a puppet for her brother, billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the military in 2006 and is currently in self-imposed exile to avoid serving jail time for a corruption conviction.
Some hardline protesters have threatened to blockade the stock exchange and an air traffic control facility if Yingluck does not step down by this evening, local time. However, a PDRC spokesman said Tuesday that neither of these places were targets of the demonstrators.
Despite mainly peaceful protests, at least eight people have been killed in the last two months. At the start of the shutdown, the government deployed about 18,000 soldiers and police to maintain order.
hc/mz (Reuters, AFP, AP)