Thailand's political crisis deepens

LINDSAY MURDOCH
Last updated 05:25 28/11/2013

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Thailand's political crisis is deepening as anti-government protesters occupy 24 provincial government centres and mass outside four key ministries in Bangkok.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra appears unable to end growing protests aimed at crippling her administration, declaring late on Wednesday "my government will not use force."

Stepping up their campaign to bring down the government and install what they are calling a "People's Assembly," protesters occupied provincial government offices in all 14 of the country's southern provinces including the tourist resort island of Phuket which are a traditional stronghold for the opposition Democrat Party.

But they also occupied offices in the north and northeast of the country where Ms Shinawatra's family is hugely popular.

Protesters led by former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban have been targeting the offices of key ministries in Bangkok since Monday and have established a de-facto headquarters in the finance ministry where protesters are receiving food, water and other essentials.

On Wednesday the Department of Special Investigation, the country's equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was evacuated as about 2,000 protesters surrounded the building.

"We are very upbeat and think we will win in a few days," said Mr Suthep who claims the movement he leads is to eradicate the powerful network of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra who is living in exile in Dubai to escape a two year jail term for corruption.

Thaksin, who is Ms Yingluck's elder brother, is a deeply divisive figure in Thailand who according to his critics is running the country from abroad.

The crisis is all too familiar in the country of 62 million people that has seen eight years of destructive cycles with Thaksin at the centre of them all.

A bitter political divide that had been simmering out of sight since Ms Yingluck was elected in mid-2011 erupted into the open month ago over a failed amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return without having to go to jail.

Analysts say Ms Yingluck risks sparking violence if she orders security forces to remove protesters from government buildings but her government's bureaucracy will remain paralyzed if she does not.

She could seek to bolster her legitimacy by calling a snap election but that could be risky following claims of official corruption and a disastrous government scheme to benefit rice farmers that has cost the country billions of dollars. 

The opposition Democrat party has launched a no-confidence motion accusing Mr Yingluck's administration of corruption and calling her an incompetent puppet whose brother pulled the strings.

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The vote expected Thursday has no chance of unseating Ms Yingluck whose Pheu Thai party controls the House of Representatives.

- FFX Aus

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