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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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