Thai protesters cut power, water to PM’s offices

Anti-government protesters in Thailand cut off electricity to the prime minister’s office compound Thursday while their leaders met with businesspeople to explain why they want to oust the caretaker government before upcoming elections.

The government and military both announced they will hold public meetings this weekend in attempts to find an end to the political crisis. But the protesters insisted they would stick with their demand.

The military Supreme Command said it would host a meeting Saturday at which the protest group would explain its goals and be questioned by invited guests from various walks of life.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban cast the meeting as a talk with top brass from the army, air force, navy and police. However, the official announcement did not make clear if they would attend.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra earlier announced in a televised address that the government would hold its own forum Sunday with representatives of all sectors of society to try to formulate proposals for reforming Thailand after the Feb. 2 polls are held.

Yingluck made the announcement from an undisclosed location. She was not at her office, where protesters outside the gates cut off water and electricity and demanded that police leave the compound. The protesters have previously occupied and cut off electricity to official buildings to pressure the government.

Thailand has been wracked by sometimes violent political conflict since Yingluck’s billionaire brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a 2006 military coup after being accused of corruption and abuse of power. The protesters say Thai politics are hopelessly corrupt under Thaksin’s continuing influence, and that he buys his electoral support from the country’s urban and rural poor.

They say Yingluck is Thaksin’s puppet and want a nonelected government to be appointed to institute reforms and establish a less democratic system that would abolish the concept of one person, one vote. They believe the poor are not educated enough to choose responsible leaders.

Thaksin’s supporters say he is disliked by Bangkok’s elite because he has shifted power away from the traditional ruling class.

Thaksin and his allies have easily won every national election since 2001.

Yingluck dissolved the lower house of Parliament on Monday and called the early polls in an attempt to end the crisis, but the protesters insist that she make way for another prime minister immediately.

In a series of bizarre “orders,” protest leader Suthep has called for police not to report to their posts and demanded that Yingluck be prosecuted for insurrection. He already has been charged with the same crime for his movement’s occupation of government offices and call for civil servants to join the protesters instead of reporting for their jobs.