Anti-government protests polarise Thailand

“Yellow shirt” demonstrators demand prime minister’s downfall, but “red shirt” loyalists say she was fairly elected.

Bangkok, Thailand – Thousands continue to take to the streets of Thailand’s capital demanding the government’s ouster, after years of crippling political divisions. 

Several thousand anti-government demonstrators marched to the ruling Puea Thai Party’s main office, as about 300 riot police stood guard outside. Several hundred protesters entered the army’s headquarters kilometres away briefly before leaving. Soldiers looked on without responding. 

The political stand-off between the “yellow shirt” opponents of the current government and its “red shirt” supporters is showing no signs of abating after nearly a week of rowdy, though largely peaceful, marches.

Embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – the sister of ousted prime minster Thaksin Shinawatra – has refused to step down or call new elections, while also saying the army and police would not use force to break up the protests.

Al Jazeera asked Thais about their opinion on the current crisis, the worst since 2010 when about 90 people were killed in a military crackdown on demonstrations.

Karl, 52, cyber-security analyst in Bangkok

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

The whole thing started with Thaksin. It’s not about colours, yellow or red. It’s about a dictator who has divided this country. It is not good to divide the people and make them fight each other. The government says it was elected by the majority of Thais, but look at the number of people here. You have to have the heart of the people, and Thaksin and his followers don’t have it.

Wanchai Bangkerd, 66, government supporter from the northeastern city of Ubon Ratchathani

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

We are here to cheer on the government. The anti-government demonstrators have come because they were paid money to do so.

The Democratic Party is the minority; it cannot tell the government to get out. This government was elected by the most of the Thai people. It’s a real democracy.

Pennee Vongkiattip, 46, telecom company employee, protesting at Puea Thai Party headquarters

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

We have come here to unite the nation. Corruption is a huge problem in every government project. We don’t want this anymore, we want them out.

Sanong Temduang, 57, street-food vendor watching the protest march on Friday

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

I disagree with the protesters. The government was elected by the people, so it has the right to rule. 

Sekpong Wongkalaong, 52, security guard watching the protest march on Friday

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

It is the freedom and right of each person to protest if they’re not happy. But there must not be any violence. I don’t agree or disagree with the demonstrators. I would disagree if there is a coup again, or if violence breaks out.

Tanit Vandee, 44, housewife, at the Red Shirt base at a stadium in a Bangkok suburb

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

I don’t like what the anti-government protesters are doing. They say they love the country, but what are they doing? They’re destroying it. The Red Shirts have come here to show they will fight peacefully, so we will not move from here and provoke violence.

Poonsak Saiwut, 49, street food vendor watching the anti-government march

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

I don’t want this to happen. I don’t like to see the country in turmoil like this. I want Thailand to be peaceful, not divided into groups. I want to see Thai people love each other like in the past.

Sommai Panyasarn, 45, lottery ticket seller at the Red Shirt camp

[Robert Kennedy/Al Jazeera]

The government has done all the right things. What the protesters say is not true. If the demonstrators are willing to talk, everything will end well. 

Source : Al Jazeera

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