News / Asia

    Thai Protests Continue as Senate Postpones Vote on Controversial Bill

    Anti-government protesters shout on the stage during a rally against a political amnesty bill at the democracy monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 8, 2013.Anti-government protesters shout on the stage during a rally against a political amnesty bill at the democracy monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 8, 2013.
    x
    Anti-government protesters shout on the stage during a rally against a political amnesty bill at the democracy monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 8, 2013.
    Anti-government protesters shout on the stage during a rally against a political amnesty bill at the democracy monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 8, 2013.
    Ron Corben
    Thailand's Senate has postponed until Monday a debate on a controversial amnesty bill that has drawn tens of thousands of people to the streets in recent days. The outpouring of opposition to the bill represents the biggest test for the governing Pheu Thai Party since it came to power in 2011.   

    Tens of thousands of protestors have marched throughout Bangkok ever since a week ago, when the House of Representatives rushed through a vote on the measure to provide amnesty for thousands of people accused of crimes related to political unrest since 2004.
     
    By Friday, after an outpouring of opposition from many sectors of Thai society, the ruling party was calling for an end to the protests because the measure is headed for defeat.

    Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist and former government spokesman, says the size of the protests has caught the government off guard.

    "The movement against the draft amnesty bill has been more intense than the government expected and in particular the united voice against the bill throughout the provinces and across different sections of society, created the biggest ever challenge to Yingluck's administration since her election," said Panitan.

    The government says the bill is a key step in national reconciliation. But the measure also includes amnesty for political leaders; in particular Prime Minister Yingluck's brother, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a two year jail term for corruption.

    Protesters in Bangkok have come from across Thai society and even included some grass root supporters of Thaksin, known as the Red Shirts. A Red Shirt leader, Sombat Boon Ngamanong, says many supporters are angry with the governing Pheu Thai Party, even though they may continue to support the party in the short term.

    Sombat says Pheu Thai has 'lost face' and supporter faith over the bill, leaving many red shirts to question further support of the Pheu Thai Party at the next general elections, scheduled before 2015.

    Pasuk Phongpaichit, a political economist at Chulalongkorn University, says the latest protests mark a maturation of Thailand's democracy, with disparate groups uniting around a common cause.

    "It's very positive. A lot of positives will come out of this," said Pasuk. "Already there are the middle class in Bangkok who came out to say that and the fact some of the Red Shirts oppose this terrible amnesty law shows that they can think for themselves and they are not being led by Thaksin and Pheu Thai."
           
    With so many groups out on the streets in Thailand, analyst Panitan Wattanayagorn says some may use the opposition to the amnesty bill as a catalyst to challenge the ruling party even after the bill is withdrawn.  

    "It seems like the dropping of the draft bill and related drafts in the parliament may not be satisfactory to many of these groups although some of the groups are quite sure that they are just against the bill -- not against the administration," said Panitan.

    The Democrat Party-led protests have set a deadline of Monday evening for the bill to be dropped. More protests are expected until then.

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.