Sun, Dec 08, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Thai protest leader urges final massive showdown

LAST LEGS:Thai protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who faces an arrest warrant, said he will ‘walk into jail’ if the protest does not attract millions of people

AP, BANGKOK

The leader of the anti-government protests that have roiled the Thai capital acknowledged on Friday that he did not have enough supporters to overthrow the prime minister, and called for more followers to turn out tomorrow for a massive rally that he vowed would be the final showdown in the standoff with authorities.

“We will only win if we have so many people that they can’t hurt us,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Thai deputy premier said in a speech, sounding almost desperate as he signaled an end to a truce called in honor of the king’s birthday on Thursday.

Protesters are unlikely to gather in such numbers. By most estimates, fewer than 30,000 of Suthep’s followers have joined most protests over the past two weeks.

He promised that tomorrow would be the last showdown with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration, though he has made similar vows in the past.

“If you don’t come out, we will have to accept our defeat,” said Suthep, who currently faces an arrest warrant in connection with the protests.

He promised to “walk into jail” if millions do not turn out.

He called on followers to march through Bangkok to Government House, home of the prime minister’s office, but did not urge them to seize control of the complex.

The city remained tense, but calm on Friday evening following several days of violence that resulted in five people killed and at least 289 wounded. Violence ended abruptly on Tuesday as both sides set aside their differences to honor King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turned 86 on Thursday.

The king is widely revered in a country sharply divided along social and political lines, and in a brief birthday speech he called for unity and stability.

He did not directly mention the political turmoil, disappointing those who had hoped the visibly infirm king would use the occasion to broker peace, as he has in the past.

Although major celebrations ended on Thursday, several more ceremonies are to be held over the next few days to honor the king.

On Friday, Thai government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi said Yingluck has canceled trips overseas scheduled for this month, including visits to Myanmar, Japan and Russia, so she could remain in Thailand to monitor the political situation.

Three men were injured in incidents late on Thursday and early on Friday, including one man shot in the arm at the finance ministry, which is occupied by anti-government protesters. National police spokesman Major General Piya Uthayo said the violence was the work of unidentified people trying to disrupt the protests.

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