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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid