Thailand’s embattled prime minister has dismissed calls for his resignation, saying that stepping down would not resolve the country’s deepening political crisis.
Anti-government protesters have demanded that Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat resign to take responsibility for violent clashes last Tuesday between protesters and riot police that killed three people and wounded nearly 500 protesters. It was the worst political violence in Thailand in more than a decade.
“Many groups in society are calling for me to resign or dissolve the Parliament,” the Prime Minister said yesterday in a nationally televised address.
“I am not attached to my position,” he said. “However, I am not confident that is the right solution.”
The clashes turned violent after police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who were trying to block Parliament to keep Mr Somchai from delivering his first policy statement to politicians. Mr Somchai was sworn in on September 25.
Protesters have accused riot police of using excessive force and say they will stage a large demonstration later in the week outside Bangkok’s police headquarters.
The rally was initially planned for today but was postponed to pay respect for two victims whose remains were to be cremated that day, protest organisers said.
“I have to express my regret about what happened,” Mr Somchai said, referring to the violence and issuing a renewed plea for reconciliation.
Mr Somchai said he had ordered a fact-finding committee to investigate “what really happened” and another committee would be set up to determine compensation for families of victims.
The anti-government protesters, led by a group that calls itself the People’s Alliance for Democracy, has occupied the grounds of the prime minister’s office since August 26.
The protests have virtually paralysed the government and forced Somchai to operate out of a makeshift office at Bangkok’s old international airport.
The protesters regard Mr Somchai as a proxy of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications billionaire who was ousted by a 2006 military coup for alleged corruption and misuse of power. Somchai is a brother-in-law of Thaksin’s.
The mostly middle-class protesters who back the alliance say they will continue protests if any party associated with Thaksin returns to power.