Tens of thousands of Thai anti-government protesters appealed to King Bhumibol Adulyadej this weekend to appoint a new prime minister to replace Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been accused of corruption and abuse of power.
“The crisis has reached an impasse,” Sondhi Limthongkul, a former Thaksin ally who is now one of the key leaders in the campaign against him, declared at a Saturday night rally that drew fewer participants than the organisers had hoped.
“We, the king’s subjects, see no way out of the crisis without causing bloodshed.”
The call for royal intervention came as some Thais cast early ballots for controversial April 2 elections, which Mr Thaksin – who remains hugely popular in the countryside – is counting on to renew his mandate, and end the Bangkok protests aimed at forcing his resignation.
Among those who cast early ballots was General Prem Tinsulanonda, the chairman of the king’s privy council, and his early vote at the weekend was seen as an indication that the king, a constitutional monarch, would not step into the political fray.
Mr Thaksin called snap elections last month to defuse a furore over his family’s Bt73bn ($1.9bn, €1.6bn, £1.1bn) tax-free sale of Shin Corp, the telecom empire he founded, to Singapore’s Temasek Holdings.
With the three main opposition parties boycotting, the poll has emerged as a national referendum on Mr Thaksin’s leadership.
Government critics have urged Thais to cast a “no vote” to register their opposition to the premier.