BANGKOK: The Thai prime minister on Wednesday proposed the formation of a national reform council tasked with finding solutions to the political turmoil that is splitting the country and paralysing governance.
Yingluck Shinawatra's announcement allows her to portray herself as being committed to reconciliation in the face of the protest movement, which is seeking to topple her government via civil disobedience and has vowed to disrupt early elections on Feb 2.
But it seemed unlikely that the proposal would be taken seriously. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, has already said he would not accept the idea of a reform council. He appears to be aiming to create such chaos that Yingluck will have to resign.
Yingluck said the council would not be a government body, and its 499 members would be appointed by an independent commission, including the commander of the armed forces, business and academic leaders and economists. It would be tasked with amending the constitution and addressing corruption, money politics and ensuring electoral reform.
Yingluck made the announcement in Bangkok, the main power center of the protest movement. She has not been in the capital since Sunday.
Suthep has called on followers to prevent her from working and living in the capital by surrounding her home and government buildings.
Thailand has been wracked by sometimes violent political conflict since Yingluck's brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled by a 2006 military coup. The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a proxy for Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail time for a corruption conviction but still wields influence in the country.
Thaksin-allied parties have won every election since 2001 thanks to strong support in the north and northeast of the country. His supporters say he is disliked by Bangkok's elite because he has shifted power away from the traditional ruling class.