13 Jan 2014

Bangkok ‘shutdown’: protesters fill streets of Thai capital

Thailand’s embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has invited opposition leaders to discuss an election, as protesters calling for her resignation “shut down” Bangkok.

Prime Minister Yingluck had called a snap election to take place on 2 February, but opposition leaders and the country’s electoral commission suggested the election should be pushed back.

Channel 4 News Asia Correspondent John Sparks is in Bangkok. You can follow him on Twitter here.

“The prime minister thinks that there are still some unclear points in the EC’s proposal. The best way is to meet and discuss it,” Suranand Vejjajiva, secretary-general to the prime minister, told reporters.

Despite opposition on the streets of Bangkok, it is thought that Prime Minister Yingluck would win re-election in a February election due to support in the north and northeast of Thailand.

Thailand: Protesters lock major intersections in Bangkok (picture: Reuters)

The proposed meeting was announced as thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Bangkok for a “shutdown” of the capital (see video, above).

Protesters blockaded major transport intersections in the city in an effort to grind the city to a halt. Police and soldiers are visible on the streets, but there has been no signs of the violence that marred previous protests last year.

The government has deployed 10,000 police to maintain law and order, along with 8,000 soldiers at government offices.

“We don’t want confrontation with the protesters … in some places we will let them into government buildings,” Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Sunday.

Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra (picture: Reuters)

Around 140 schools have been told to close in Bangkok on Monday, and universities are suspending classes.

The anti-government protests are calling for the departure of Ms Yingluck, who they accuse of being a proxy for her brother Thaksin Sinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was ousted by the military in 2006, but it has been suggested that his influence is still extending into Thailand from his exiled in Dubai.