BANGKOK – Thailand’s prime minister announced today she will dissolve the lower house of parliament and call elections in an attempt to calm the country’s deepening political crisis. The surprise move came as 100,000 protesters vowing to overthrow her government marched through the streets of Bangkok for a “final showdown.”
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra appeared emotional and her voice shook as she spoke in a nationally televised address this morning.
“After listening to opinions from all sides, I have decided to request a royal decree to dissolve parliament,” Yingluck said, breaking into regular programming. “There will be new elections according to the democratic system.”
She said the Election Commission would set a date “as soon as possible.”
It was unclear whether the move would ease the country’s political standoff, which deepened Sunday after the main opposition party resigned from the legislature en masse. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has repeatedly said that calling fresh elections would not be enough to end the conflict, and he made no immediate comment on Yingluck’s announcement.
Police estimated that 100,000 protesters were out on the streets of Bangkok.
Thailand has been plagued by political turmoil since the army toppled Yingluck’s brother Thaksin in a 2006 coup. In broad terms, the conflict pits the Thai elite and the educated middle-class against Thaksin’s power base in the countryside, which benefited from populist policies.
“We will rise up. We will walk on every street in the country. We will not be going home again,” Suthep said Sunday. His supporters have occupied the Finance Ministry and part of a vast government complex for more than a week. “The people who will be going home empty-handed are those in the Thaksin regime.”
As Yingluck spoke, long columns of protesters paralyzed traffic on major Bangkok boulevards. They filled a major four-lane road in the city’s central business district, waving flags, blowing whistles and holding a huge banner that said, “Get Out Shinawatra.”