The Bangkok Shutdown will be shut down this weekend but the fight to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government is far from over, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced on Friday night.
All of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) rally stages will be dismantled and blocked roads cleared, and all activities will then be moved to Lumpini Park, said the PDRC secretary-general.
Only four of the original seven rally stages remain: at Pathumwan, Asok, Silom and Ratchaprasong.
The decision brings to an end six weeks of major disruptions at strategic locations across the capital as PDRC campaigners sought to force the caretaker government’s resignation.
“The PDRC would like to return traffic lanes to our Bangkok brothers and sisters,” Mr Suthep told the crowd at the Pathumwan intersection on Friday night.
“My sincere apologies to all Bangkokians for the inconvenience. It’s just something we had to do.”
He said nobody had forced the PDRC to dismantle the sites, not even the “incompetent” caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her deputy Chalerm Yubamrung.
“We decided to stop the ‘Bangkok Shutdown’ but we’ll continue to close down government offices and businesses of the Shinawatra family as usual and our fight will be more intense,” Mr Suthep said.
“I’m determined to end this by March so we can start national reform, so please be patient.”
The former Democrat Party powerbroker said he planned to get pro-PDRC musicians to perform many concerts at the Lumpini rally site. The money earned from the shows will be given to relatives of those who have died in the political violence.
Twenty people have been killed and around 700 injured since the protests started at the end of October.
Mr Suthep said the protesters would help clean up the Pathumwan, Asok, Silom and Ratchaprasong areas before moving to Lumpini on Monday.
The PDRC decided to gather at Lumpini only because many buildings and conference halls were situated there, and the group could hold meetings and seminars to exchange views from various sides, he said.
As well, he said, the park would be “more comfortable” for people who travelled from the provinces to take part in the rallies and needed a place to camp overnight.
When the shutdown began on Jan 13, PDRC organisers set up seven rally stages at high-profile locations in the capital: Lumpini, Asok-Sukhumvit, Ratchaprasong, Pathumwan, Victory Monument, Lat Phrao and the Chaeng Watthana Government Complex.
In the early days of the campaign, speeches and other activities on each of the stages attracted thousands of people every evening. But attendance has fallen markedly in the last two weeks or so.
“We will raise the level of our rallies after we return the roads to Bangkok people,” Mr Suthep said. “I personally hope the game will be over by March.
“I hope that after we return the roads to you, Bangkok people will rethink how important what we are doing is for the country and join us.”
Responding to the government’s plan to invite United Nations Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to Thailand to help solve the political crisis, Mr Suthep said he believed the UN did not understand Thailand’s situation the way Thai people do.
In any case, he said, Ms Yingluck could not communicate well in English and that could pose a problem during negotiations.