Protesters trying to topple Thailand’s prime minister marched in Bangkok on Tuesday to drum up support for their plans to bring the capital to a halt next week by blockading major roads and preventing the government from functioning. Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an election for February 2 but the protesters, aware she would probably win on the back of support in the rural north and northeast, want her to step down and be replaced by an appointed “people’s council” to push through electoral reforms. The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her self-exiled brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, a man they say is a corrupt crony capitalist who used taxpayers’ money to buy electoral support with costly populist giveaways.
The anti-government push is intended to block an election that looks increasingly uncertain. The government’s supporters fear that if protests fail to halt the poll, chaos or violence could be instigated to trigger intervention by either the military or the judiciary.
That prospect became more of a possibility on Tuesday when the National Counter-Corruption Commission decided to press charges against 308 former lawmakers, mostly from Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party, for trying to change the constitution to make the Senate a fully elected chamber. The Constitutional Court in November ruled such an amendment illegal.