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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

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