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Thai protest leader vows to win or die

By Jocelyn Gecker in Bangkok, Thailand | China Daily | Updated: 2013-11-29 07:03

A few years ago, Suthep Thaugsuban was a suit-and-tie-wearing deputy prime minister of Thailand and a senior executive of the country's oldest political party.

Today, the 64-year-old career politician has ditched his office attire, distanced himself from the opposition Democrat Party and found a new calling as a street fighter.

Suthep is the mastermind of Thailand's latest round of street protests and has vowed to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra by taking over every government ministry.

After storming the Finance Ministry earlier this week and camping there for two nights with thousands of supporters, Suthep marched into a sprawling government office complex, where he remained locked in a standoff with police on Thursday, refusing to leave.

"We like peaceful methods," Suthep told reporters, his voice hoarse from speaking above the crowd's roar. But he added, "If we don't succeed, then I am prepared to die in the battlefield.

Thai protest leader vows to win or die

"The people will quit only when state power is in their hands," he said.

Yingluck has repeatedly said she wants to avert violence and has offered to negotiate an end to the crisis. Security forces have not even fired tear gas to prevent protesters from forcing the closure of multiple government offices. A warrant was issued for Suthep's arrest, but he has ignored it.

"We must not regard this as a win-or-lose situation," Yingluck told reporters at parliament on Wednesday. "Today, no one is winning or losing, only the country is hurting."

Protesters want Yingluck to step down amid claims she is a proxy for her brother, billionaire former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup but remains central to Thailand's long-running political crisis. Thaksin lives overseas to avoid a corruption conviction that he says was politically motivated.

In broad terms, Thailand's political crisis pits Thailand's elite and the educated middle-class against Thaksin, whose power base is in the countryside, which benefited from populist policies designed to win them over.

The Associated Press

(China Daily 11/29/2013 page12)

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