News / Asia

Thai PM Seeks Reconciliation Despite Threat of More Protests

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks at a news conference after a cabinet meeting at an Air Force base in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 25, 2013.Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks at a news conference after a cabinet meeting at an Air Force base in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 25, 2013.
x
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks at a news conference after a cabinet meeting at an Air Force base in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 25, 2013.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra speaks at a news conference after a cabinet meeting at an Air Force base in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 25, 2013.
Reuters
Embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for reconciliation on Tuesday as the streets of the capital, Bangkok, emptied ahead of New Year celebrations, a rare period of calm after weeks of unrest.
 
Anti-government protesters have vowed to disrupt a Feb. 2 election called by Yingluck in a bid to settle a crisis that has pitted her government against Bangkok's conservative elite and middle class.
 
The demonstrators have threatened to shut down Bangkok after the New Year, with plans to block roads in up to 20 places, although the scope of their protests has not always matched the promises made by their leader, Suthep Thaugsuban.
 
Yingluck has not been in Bangkok for more than a week, spending time among supporters in the north, but she used social media to send a message seeking peace and reconciliation.
 
“On the occasion of New Year 2014, may I ask all Thais to be united in mind, to seek a blessing for the Thai people to love and harmonize and for those who differ in views, be it their political ideology or belief, to reconcile for a peaceful resolution for our nation,” she said in a Facebook post.
 
An anti-government protester walks past pictures taken during clashes with riot policemen, during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok December 29, 2013.An anti-government protester walks past pictures taken during clashes with riot policemen, during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok December 29, 2013.
x
An anti-government protester walks past pictures taken during clashes with riot policemen, during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok December 29, 2013.
An anti-government protester walks past pictures taken during clashes with riot policemen, during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok December 29, 2013.
The demonstrators are determined to topple Yingluck, who they see as a puppet of her self-exiled brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra.
 
Bangkok's normally gridlocked streets were mostly clear on Tuesday as people headed to the provinces for the holiday.
 
The latest protests have flared into violence at several protest sites over the past five days. At least eight people have been killed since they began in late November.
 
On Thursday, a policeman and a protester were killed when an unidentified gunman fired during chaotic clashes outside an election registration center.
 
Another protester was killed by an unidentified gunman at another rally site in a pre-dawn attack on Saturday. The Erawan Emergency Centre in Bangkok said another protester had been taken to hospital suffering gunshot wounds to the chest and arm after a shooting at a third site late on Monday.
 
Worry about military intervention
 
The violence is the latest in years of rivalry between Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment and the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.
 
Even though her Puea Thai Party would most likely win the election, Yingluck's position has become more tenuous as the conflict drags on, with street violence opening the possibility of intervention by the politicized military or judiciary.
 
That became increasingly apparent last week, when the army chief declined to rule out a coup. Thailand's military has launched or attempted 18 coups in 81 years of fragile democracy, including Thaksin's 2006 overthrow.
 
The military has since sought to ease fears that yet another coup was imminent.
 
Riot policemen walk around during a registration of election candidates at a bus terminal centre near the Government complex in Bangkok, Dec. 28, 2013.Riot policemen walk around during a registration of election candidates at a bus terminal centre near the Government complex in Bangkok, Dec. 28, 2013.
x
Riot policemen walk around during a registration of election candidates at a bus terminal centre near the Government complex in Bangkok, Dec. 28, 2013.
Riot policemen walk around during a registration of election candidates at a bus terminal centre near the Government complex in Bangkok, Dec. 28, 2013.
Most of the protests have been centered in Bangkok, although demonstrators have also blocked registration for the polls in seven provinces in the south. The protesters and the main opposition Democrat Party, which has declared it will boycott the poll, have many supporters in the south.
 
The protesters say the wealthy Shinawatra family has effectively manipulated Thailand's democracy by buying the support of the rural poor with populist policies such as cheap healthcare and subsidies for rice farmers.
 
Former telecoms tycoon Thaksin and his allies have won every election since 2001. He fled into exile in 2008 before being sentenced to jail on graft charges he said were politically motivated.
 
Yingluck's party miscalculated badly in November when it tried to force through an amnesty that would have allowed Thaksin to return a free man, sparking the latest round of protests.

You May Like

Nigeria Incumbent in Tight Spot as Poll Nears

Muhammadu Buhari is running a strong challenge to Goodluck Jonathan, amid a faltering economy and Boko Haram security worries More

Video Liberia's Almost-Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo tells VOA that despite her fame, life is still a struggle as she waits for government's promise of support to arrive More

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

At least seven different indigenous groups in Ratanakiri depend mainly on forest products for their survival, say they face loss of their land, traditional way of life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More