Bangkok Braces for Protest Shutdown
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Thai authorities decided to deploy more than 14,000 troops and police on Bangkok's streets as anti-government protesters, led by former opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban, plan on shutting down the capital for between 15 and 20 days starting Monday.
Paralysing Bangkok is the latest bid in a two-month attempt by protesters to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, amid the military's insistance to remain neutral.
The turmoil is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006.
Protesters, who accuse the Shinawatra family of corruption and nepotism, have asked the army at the early stages of protests to side with them, Al Jazeera reported.
"We need to be careful about our comments," Colonel Winthai Suwari, Thai Army spokesman, told Al Jazeera. "What we say can ignite and inspire, even create, a situation that will force the army to step in."
Yingluck called a snap election for Feb. 2, but this failed to placate protesters, who want her government to resign to make way for an unelected people's council to oversee political reform.
Fears of more clashes between rival factions escalated after pro-government "red shirts" announced they would stage their own march on Monday in provinces neighbouring Bangkok.
Amid fears of escalating trouble, security forces have been deployed across the capital to protect key sites including the prime minister's office, Bangkok's main airport and the city's water and electricity authorities.
Many Thais believe the military will soon step in to break the political deadlock, especially if the protests turn even more violent, and rumours of an impending coup have intensified.