Thai protest leader Suthep issues ultimatum, universities shut down | News | DW | 02.12.2013
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Thai protest leader Suthep issues ultimatum, universities shut down

Universities in the Thai capital, Bangkok, have been closed amid anti-government demonstrations. Protest leaders issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra after weekend clashes.

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Thai protests escalate

Universities and schools were closed on Monday as anti-government protests affected large portions of the city.

Protest leader Suthep Thaungsuban said that he met with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra late on Sunday, adding that there had been no negotiations but that he had issued an ultimatum.

"I told Yingluck that this will be our only meeting and we will not meet again until the people win," said Suthep. The protest leader set a Tuesday deadline for the premier, who he accuses of being a puppet for her brother Thaksin, to resign and renewed his call for civil servants to strike.

"Stop working for the Thaksin regime and come out and protest," he said.

The meeting was reported to have been arranged by the army's commander-in-chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha. The meeting was reportedly attended by the Thai army, navy and air force.

Several large universities announced closures on Monday, claiming to take the action with the safety of students in mind. Some 32 schools in the capital also closed, according to the DPA news agency.

Anti-government protesters have tried to occupy government offices since Suthep launched a campaign to place the country under a "People's Assembly" on November 24. Although protesters have occupied a number of buildings, authorities say their sit-ins have only been temporary so far.

Failed amnesty bill

The crisis began on November 1, with Yingluck's ruling coalition trying to push through a bill in parliament that would have resulted in an amnesty for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as others convicted in politically-related cases during 2004 and 2013. The bill was rejected by the country's Senate.

Thaksin Shinawatra - who was premier from 2001 until being ousted in a 2006 coup - has been living abroad since 2008, facing a two-year jail sentence for abuse of power if he returns to Thailand.

Last week, the prime minister survived a no-confidence vote lodged by Thailand's opposition comparatively comfortably.

On Sunday, riot police used tear gas and water cannon to repel protesters seeking to take control of premises including an office used by the cabinet's administration. Some 30,000 protesters were reported to be present, with some throwing rocks and petrol bombs at officers. Citizens were warned from going outside in the capital on Sunday night.

Yingluck herself was affected by the protests on Sunday when she was forced to evacuate a police complex in Bangkok where she had been scheduled to give an interview to reporters. Protesters outside the building were attempting to break in, and Yingluck was taken to an undisclosed location.

In weekend fighting between pro- and anti-government factions, at least three people died and about 50 were injured.

rc/lw (dpa, Reuters)

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