Political Protests, Clashes Continue in Thailand

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BANGKOK -- Political protests in Thailand show no sign of ending, despite a brief lull for a national holiday.

Last week, bloody street battles left 23 dead and hundreds wounded.

Some are accusing the exiled former prime minister of trying to get back in power after a 2006 military coup sparked the long-running political crisis.

A Secret Agenda?

The tense atmosphere brought about by the violent protests over last weekend changed into a festive mood , at least for three days, as Thailand celebrated the Sonkran, which is the Thai new year.

Contrary to earlier reports that red-shirted protesters have abandoned the streets. Members of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship have continued to occupy the main shopping area, paralyzing businesses in the big malls.

People have camped out here for more than a week now and they say that they'll stay until the government gives in to their demands.

But they could be waiting a long time. They are demanding that the prime minister resign, the parliament be dissolved, and new elections be held.

Former Prime Minister to Blame? 

One political analyst believes that the protests to overthrow current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva are instigated by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and faces corruption charges.

"This is the Constitution that they had two prime ministers from their party," explained Dr. Surat Horachaikul. "And eventually with the third nominee, only got 25 votes and cannot be prime minister."

"Vejjajiva became prime minister and we need to respect that," he added. "Unquestionably, Vejjajiva did not violate any human rights, was not charged of any corruption and he was accepted by the international community. This is not about democracy, this is about bringing Shinawatra back to Thailand."

Military Not Backing Current PM 

Horachaikul is concerned about the military's stance. They have refused to back up Vejjajiva because this is a political issue.

"If you have a democratic peace process, it makes sense for the army to say that. But if you have a gang of thugs, that's a problem," he said.

Horachaikul said the military plays a vital role to run after the perpetrators of violence and restore peace and order in Thailand.

"We can convince the people with peaceful words," Horachaikul told CBN News. "If you don't have secret agenda of whitewashing Shinawatra, we can work together to reform the country."

But again how can we convince them to stop?" he questioned. "It again depends on the force of the army. They should not be confused that they should not be politically involved. National security is a political issue. They need to support the prime minister who is fully legitimate. From there we will be able to solve something."

But until such time, the political situation remains volatile in Thailand.

*Originally published April 16, 2010

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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