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Thailand In Turmoil
Protest Rallies Erupt in Bangkok as PM Clings to Power

Suthep Thaugsuben, the leader of Thailand’s anti-government protests, approached a rally site in Bangkok yesterday leading a convoy of cars and trucks, horns honking. He had brought his supporters back out into the streets as a court decision approached that could unseat his sworn enemy, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. His ultimate aim is to remove the Prime Minister and her brother from Thailand’s politics forever, and he has many well wishers urging him on.

But the Shinawatras also command a loyal following, one large enough to win the family election after election. Known as “Red Shirts,” they have vowed to do battle with Suthep’s supporters if he and his allies succeed in forcing the Prime Minister out of office. On Friday, a criminal court allowed two Red Shirt leaders to remain free despite charges of terrorism and rebellion against them. The two men were among the loudest rabble rousers who led Red Shirt protests in 2010 that left scores dead on the streets of Bangkok. Though the court did not jail them, it did note that their speeches were inciting public instability and warned them not to lead future rallies.

The prospect of history repeating itself is dangerously likely. Yesterday, as Suthep’s forces chanted nearby, the National Anti Corruption Commission, which is one of two bodies considering cases that could remove the Prime Minister from office, rejected requests from the PM’s legal team for more time to call witnesses and present new documents. Previous court decisions have not gone the Shinawatras’ way.

But on this day, the NACC didn’t proffer a verdict. A decision will come early next month, a spokesman said. As rival groups protest loudly in Bangkok, it’s clear that nothing less than the future of the country is at stake.

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