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Yingluck cancels 3 overseas trips

Suthep says more govt offices to be seized today, tomorrow; big rally on Monday

The prime minister has been so concerned about the political crisis she has cancelled another overseas trip scheduled later this month.

The move came with the resumption of confrontation between the government and protesters led by veteran politician Suthep Thaugsuban, who yesterday announced a plan to seize control of more government offices today and tomorrow, plus a nationwide mass rally against the government on Monday.

Government spokesman Teerat Ratanasevi said yesterday that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has cancelled her official visit to Russia scheduled for tomorrow and Monday.

She has also cancelled a visit to Myanmar to attend the opening ceremony of the SEA Games next Wednesday. A Cabinet minister would be assigned to take part on her behalf, he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Premier Niwatthumrong Boonsongpaisan has been assigned to attend an Asean-Japan meeting in Tokyo on December 12-15 in the prime minister's place, Teerat said.

Yingluck earlier postponed a trip to Singapore scheduled for November 26-27.

Suthep, who resigned as an opposition Democrat Party MP shortly after joining the anti-government rally, told China's CCTV yesterday the protesters planned to seize control of more government offices today and tomorrow.

A nationwide mass rally was also planned for Monday, he said.

"Our fight takes time because we opt for a peaceful and non-violent fight. Also, we need a large number of people to pressure the government," he said. "If the government does not want to step down, the people will have to continue fighting until they give up and go."

National Security Council secretary general Paradorn Pattanatabut said yesterday the anti-government rally was "on a downtrend" and he expected it to "fizzle out" soon. And as the street protest had become violent and dragged on, many affected people were increasingly dissatisfied.

"The number of protesters has decreased significantly," Paradorn said. "After next week, the festive mood will kick in and people who do not join the protest will have a good time travelling."

Referendum proposed

Former Senate speaker Ukrit Mongkolmawin, who chairs the government-appointed Independent National Rule of Law Commission, yesterday suggested that a referendum be held about Suthep's proposal for a "People's council".

Meanwhile, the country's two largest political parties, Pheu Thai and the Democrats, yesterday decided not to field any candidates in the upcoming by-elections to fill eight MP seats left vacant after Democrat MPs resigned to lead the anti-government rally.

The Democrat's executive committee decided not to field any candidates in the by-elections. Its meeting yesterday was chaired by Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. Abhisit gave no comments when asked if the decision meant his party had no respect for the parliamentary system.

Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said the party's executive agreed it was not a good strategy to field candidates in the current situation. They did not think by-elections would be a solution to the political conflict.

"If Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra does not dissolve the House to take responsibility for creating the political conflict, we cannot field candidates," he said.

A Democrat source said most of the possible candidates would be relatives or family members of the MPs who resigned. It would be in conflict with the party's standpoint against constitutional amendment that would allow lawmakers' relatives or family members in the Senate.

The eight constituencies where by-elections will be held are Constituencies 7, 26 and 29 in Bangkok, Chumphon's Constituency 1, Trang's Constituency 2, Nakhon Si Thammarat's Constituency 3, Songkhla's Constituency 6, and Surat Thani's Constituency 2.

The Election Commission (EC) had tentatively scheduled the by-elections for December 22, with registration of candidates completed yesterday.

Eight candidates from smaller political parties registered to contest in five constituencies, and there were no candidates in three other constituencies - Trang, Surat Thani and Chumphon, according to EC secretary-general Puchong Nutarawong.

EC commissioner Prapun Naigowit said yesterday candidacy registration would be extended for constituencies where there had been no applicants. As per law, he said, a single candidate has to gain at least 20 per cent of votes in his or her constituency.


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