The mass raid of the entire compound was held to establish the facility’s status as a Department of Corrections “White Prison”.
Phuket Governor Maitri Inthusutwas led about 100 officers, including Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Arayapan Pukbuakao and Phuket Prison Chief Rapin Nichanon, in conducting the mass search, which began at 5:30am. Read more...
Opponents reject call for general election and want an unelected 'people's council', raising fears for democracy
The Thai prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, said on Tuesday she would not resign before national elections due on 2 February, her voice filling with emotion as she discussed her family's role in Thai politics.
After weeks of sometimes violent street rallies, protesters rejected her call on Monday for a general election and said she should be replaced by an unelected "people's council", a proposal that has stoked concern that south-east Asia's second-biggest economy may abandon democracy.
Yingluck said she would continue her duties as caretaker prime minister until the election. "Now that the government has dissolved parliament, I ask that you stop protesting and that all sides work towards elections," she told reporters as she went into a cabinet meeting. "I have backed down to the point where I don't know how to back down any further." She allowed tears to well in her eyes briefly before composing herself.
Yingluck, a 46-year-old former businesswoman, had no political experience before contesting a 2011 election which she won by a landslide, with largely rural support.
The protesters – a diverse collection aligned with Bangkok's royalist elite – want to oust Yingluck and eradicate the influence of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006 and has chosen to live in exile rather than serve a jail term for abuse of power.
It is the latest flare-up in almost a decade of rivalry between forces aligned with the Bangkok-based establishment and those who support Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who won huge support in the countryside with policies designed to help the poor.
An estimated 3,000 protesters camped out overnight around Government House, where Yingluck has her office, a day after 160,000 protesters converged peacefully on the complex.
They made no attempt to get into the grounds, which appeared to be defended by unarmed police and soldiers.
Yingluck's Puea Thai party enjoys widespread support in the populous north and north-east, Thailand's poorest regions. She will be its candidate for prime minister if the party wins in February, a party official said.
In contrast, the protesters are drawn from Bangkok's upper and middle classes, including civil servants and prominent business families, along with people from the south where the opposition Democrat party has long held sway.
The spark for this latest unrest was a government bid last month to force through an amnesty bill that would have expunged Thaksin's conviction, allowing him to return home a free man. He is widely seen as the power behind his sister's government.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban's overriding aim is to get rid of what he calls the "Thaksin regime" - the extended family's influence on politics but also the people placed in senior positions in state agencies and the police who are believed to answer to him.
The protest movement, he told supporters on Monday, "cannot allow political tyranny, under the guise of majority rule, and crony, monopolistic capitalism to collude to use parliamentary dictatorship to betray the trust of the people".
In a late-night speech to supporters at Government House on Monday, Suthep gave Yingluck 24 hours to step down.
"We want the government to step aside and create a power vacuum in order to create a people's council," said Akanat Promphan, a spokesman for the protest group. Suthep has said this council would be made up of appointed "good people".
Lawmakers from the Democrat party resigned from parliament on Sunday, saying they could not work with Yingluck.
Its leaders have refused to say whether they would participate in the election. Some have marched with Suthep, including Abhisit Vejjajiva, prime minister until the 2011 election, with Suthep as one of his deputies.
Suthep's campaign opens up the prospect of a minority of Thailand's 66 million people dislodging a democratically elected leader, this time without help from the military, unlike when Thaksin was deposed.
The politically powerful army, which has staged or attempted 18 coups in the past 80 years, has said it does not want to get involved, although it has tried to mediate.
Academics from the Assembly for the Defense of Democracy holding press conference at Chulalongkorn University
Nong Dear is about 120cm tall and about 16kg.
“She has long black hair and is missing her two front teeth,” Ms Jaroon Papkaew, 45, told the Phuket Gazette. Read more...
A maid discovered the newborn boy in front of Mayor Worrawut Songyot’s house when she arrived for work at 9am.
“When we arrived, the infant male was wrapped in a yellow towel. Read more...
The poll – asking “What is the best insurance solution for foreigners entering Thailand?” – was drawn up after Public Health Minister Pradit Sintavanarong announced that related agencies were discussing a plan to charge tourists for compulsory health coverage, up to 500 baht for a three- to 30-day stay, and 30 baht for stays of less than three days (story Read more...
Protest leaders have vowed to continue their demonstrations but have yet to offer a viable plan for running the country
The decision on Monday by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand's embattled prime minister, to dissolve parliament and call a snap general election seems unlikely to cure the latest violent spasm gripping the Bangkok body politic, stemming from more than a decade of indigestible north-south, rich-poor social divisions and visceral personality politics.
Despite the PM's ostensibly placatory announcement, protest leaders and opposition parties vowed to continue mass anti-government demonstrations, suggesting the proposed 2 February poll amounted to a trick to perpetuate the rule of the Shinawatra "regime". But so far they have failed to come up with a viable alternative plan for running the country.
The standoff threatens further to undermine democratic governance in a country where military coups have been commonplace and where parties defeated in elections have rarely accepted their fate with grace or dignity. Some Thai political scientists, in the style of America's Tea Party, are now claiming that winning the most votes is not necessarily the most important qualification for legitimately holding political office.
Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy PM who leads the protests, said early elections would make no difference. "The dissolving of parliament is not our aim," he said.
Suthep has instead been calling for a new prime minister to be chosen by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's ageing and influential monarch. He has also floated a proposal for an appointed "people's council" comprising "decent men" whose main task would appear to be the reconfiguring of the electoral system to ensure Yingluck, and her exiled elder brother and former PM, Thaksin Shinawatra, never again hold political power.
Suthep suggests his Platonic wise-men oligarchy would eventually give way to an elected government, but has not said how long this would take. Opportunistic opposition parties, who also abhor Thaksin and his kin, have shown a similar lack of responsibility. In 2010, then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of an unelected government installed by Thaksin's opponents, survived a similar wave of street protests by pro-Thaksin "red shirts". He had the army to thank for his rescue; about 90 people died during the unrest.
Now Abhisit, leader of the main Democratic party opposition, is also refusing to say whether he will participate in the proposed February election. Most opposition MPs resigned from parliament on Sunday. "House dissolution is the first step towards solving the problem," Abhisit said. "Today, we march. I will walk with the people to Government House."
Yingluck's decision to allow Thailand's 66 million-strong population what is effectively a referendum on her Puea Thai government, which won in a landslide result in 2011, looks statesmanlike on the face of it, but is not quite what it seems.
"The government does not want any loss of life … At this stage, when there are many people opposed to the government from many groups, the best way is to give back the power to the Thai people and hold an election. So the Thai people will decide," she said in a televised speech.
Yet the near certainty that Puea Thai will win again accounts for Suthep's and Abhisit's reluctance to go down the electoral route. While the opposition can count on support from middle-class Thais in Bangkok and the non-Muslim areas of the south and from pro-establishment royalists, they have been permanently outnumbered, electorally speaking, since Thaksin first won office in 2001 backed by the poorer, rural masses of the north and east.
A telecoms billionaire whose populist presumption deeply offended traditional Thai hierarchies, Thaksin was deposed during his second term in 2006 by an army coup and fled the country two years later amid corruption and bribery allegations.
Thaksin now lives in exile in Dubai, from where, his detractors allege, he controls the Bangkok government from a distance. The present unrest was sparked last month when Yingluck proposed an amnesty law that would have allowed her brother to return.
Yingluck might also be congratulated for avoiding the violent clashes that have disfigured previous upheavals, and for keeping the army out of the fray. Thailand's military has staged or attempted 18 coups in the past 80 years, and is no stranger to political meddling.
On the other hand, the generals, like the king, are no friends to the Thaksin clan. This time around, the army has said it does not want to get involved, although it has tried to mediate.
Both sides have invoked the authority of the king to boost their positions. Both observed a truce last Thursday, the monarch's 86th birthday. But the reality is that Bhumibol is ill, frail and rarely seen. Nor is it wholly clear that the monarchy will survive his passing. Thais must find another way out of the blind alley into which they have blundered.