May 10, 2014 6:20 am JST

Anti-government demonstrations resume in Thailand

TORU TAKAHASHI, Nikkei staff writer

BANGKOK -- Another wave of anti-government protests broke out here Friday despite the removal of former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, as the administration faces growing pressure from all sides.

     The People's Democratic Reform Committee has held protests since last October, aiming to weed out all traces of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's influence. On Friday, an estimated 20,000 protesters marched on the prime minister's office and Parliament from Lumpini Park in central Bangkok. Police used tear gas to repel demonstrators who tried to enter the Center for the Administration of Peace and Order compound. Six protesters were injured, according to medical authorities.

     Part of the group surrounded five TV stations, demanding that they stop broadcasting government announcements.

     Yingluck was ousted Wednesday when a court ruled that a transfer of top officials was unconstitutional. Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan was installed as acting premier, leaving the pro-Thaksin faction in power.

     A general election will be held July 20. The anti-Thaksin group, seeing slim odds of victory through the ballot box, is calling for reforms under an interim government.

     The head of Parliament's upper house will hold significant sway over this plan. On Friday night, the Senate selected Surachai Liengboonlertchai, then vice president of the chamber, to fill the vacant top spot. The new president, who was appointed rather than elected to the legislature, is seen as anti-Thaksin.

     The constitution provides for the selection of the prime minister by the House of Representatives, but February's general election was invalidated, and the lower house was dissolved in December. If the Election Commission steps down, the new prime minister will be appointed by the president of the Senate.

     On Thursday, the National Anti-Corruption Commission decided to indict Yingluck over a rice subsidy scheme. It is expected to reach a decision soon on whether to charge Niwatthamrong, who was involved as commerce minister, over the same program.

     In the event of an indictment, the Senate president would play a key role in such steps as an impeachment resolution and the appointment of a new prime minister.

     Meanwhile, the pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, also known as the Red Shirts, plans to hold a massive rally outside Bangkok on Saturday and will ask Yingluck to participate.