|Thai PM Yingluck clings on amid Bangkok rage and chaos
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra rejected protester demands to suspend the country's democratic system and indicated she would not resign amid rolling clashes between security forces and demonstrators bent on toppling her government.
Police used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon against rock-throwing demonstrators, after weekend unrest in Bangkok.
The protests, have raised fears of damage to the economy and particularly the lucrative tourist sector as the peak season gets underway, more so as the major flashpoints are just a few kilometers from Bangkok's main backpacker area.
In her first televised address since the protests descended into violence late Saturday, Yingluck said she could not accede to the demands of the protest leaders because they would breach the country's laws.
“Anything I can do to make people happy, I am willing to do... but as prime minister, what I can do must be under the constitution,'' she said, adding that she did not “cling to power.’’
She said she would have considered resigning or calling an election if protesters had not already ruled out these moves as insufficient, insisting the government was open to “every option'' to restore peace.
Protesters, led by former opposition MP Suthep Thaugsuban, Sunday issued an ultimatum for Yingluck's government to be ousted in two days and hand power ''to the people'' in a secret meeting with the prime minister in the presence of army, navy and air force commanders.
The demonstrators have rejected elections and said they want to root out the “Thaksin regime'', in reference to the former premier who is widely seen as the power behind Yingluck's government.
The Thai leader has kept a low profile during the unrest, a move some analysts read as an attempt to avoid further inflaming the protesters.
But officials confirmed increased use of force today as protests intensified.
“There are rubber bullets used today,'' Paradorn Pattanatabut, Secretary General of the National Security Council told AFP on telephone.
Police appeared to be successfully defending barriers at the prime minister's offices and Metropolitan Police headquarters against protesters who have besieged several key ministries.
Television footage showed a bulldozer being driven from one of the protesters' bases close to Government House.
But an AFP photographer near the building said there was a lull in the clashes as dusk approached, amid reports that Suthep would soon deliver a statement.
Thailand has seen 18 actual or attempted coups since 1932, most recently with Thaksin's overthrow in 2006.