News / Asia

Thai Opposition Protesters Snarl Bangkok Traffic

Anti-Government Protesters Paralyze Downtown Bangkoki
January 13, 2014 1:04 PM
In Thailand’s capital, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters clogged key intersections, bridges and roads as part of a campaign to force the government from office ahead of February 2 elections. On the first day of the so-called “Bangkok Shutdown,” Gabrielle Paluch reports the enthusiastic crowds were making preparations for an extended standoff.
Anti-Government Protesters Paralyze Downtown Bangkok
Gabrielle Paluch
In Thailand’s capital, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters clogged key intersections, bridges and roads as part of a campaign to force the government from office ahead of February 2 elections. On the first day of the so-called “Bangkok Shutdown,” the enthusiastic crowds are making preparations for an extended standoff.

Although the protests have halted much of the traffic in the main business district Monday, life is continuing as normal in most of the city.  Thousands of security forces are deployed in the Thai capital, but they have taken no action against the protesters.

The commercial heart of downtown Bangkok was overrun by flag waving protesters starting Sunday evening, when organizers set up stages and sound systems at rally sites across the city.

By Monday morning, throngs of people moved among several main rally sites, blowing whistles, denouncing the prime minister and vowing to pass reforms to improve a government that they argue has grown destructively corrupt.
Those gathered see the shutdown as a last resort measure to force a corrupt government from office. Ravit Sriwilai came from nearby Samut Prakan province to join the protesters.
Ravit said he had come to the rally today to show that the government has no legitimacy to govern the country anymore, that they must have reform before elections, and that in the past there was a lot of corruption.
  • Anti-government protesters march during a rally in Bangkok, Jan. 15, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester wears a mask during a rally in central Bangkok, Jan. 15, 2014.
  • Soldiers stand guard inside the Thai Defense Ministry in Bangkok, Jan. 15, 2014.
  • Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban addresses anti-government protesters occupying a major intersection in central Bangkok, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters with national flags gather for a rally in Bangkok, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters with national flags gather for a rally at Asok intersection in Bangkok, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Anti-government protestors participate in a sit-in outside the Royal Thai Police headquarters in Bangkok, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters gather outside the Central World mall in the shopping district in central Bangkok, Jan. 13, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester stands behind a barricade in a major intersection in central Bangkok, Jan. 13, 2014.

Thailand’s latest political crisis started late last year, when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party tried to pass a broad political amnesty that would have cleared scores of people of crimes linked to political conflict over the last decade. Yingluck’s elder brother, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, would also have been included, paving the way for the controversial leader’s return from exile.
The deeply unpopular amnesty was defeated, and Yingluck later dissolved her government and called for early elections in an attempt to defuse the political backlash, but the protests continued.
Now, opposition parties are boycotting the February 2 polls and protesters are demanding significant political reforms before new elections are held. 
Skeptics say the movement risks undermining Thailand’s democracy, but protester Jiravadee Kanamoto said another vote will merely maintain the status quo.
"We want [an] election, but not right now. Our country is not ready for [an] election. If it's… not a fair election, it's not a fair vote. For sure the same people will come back," said Jiravadee.
Thailand’s election commission has suggested delaying the vote by a few months, but authorities have resisted, and even protest leaders say they want more than just a delay before voting.
It remains unclear if protesters will be able to continue drawing huge crowds until the elections more than two weeks from now, but they are organized and prepared.
Vendors around the rally sites sold protest-themed T-shirts and accessories in the colors of Thailand’s flag. Protest security guards help keep order, and hot, free meals are prepared for the thousands camped at the main rally sites.
With thousands in the streets, and passions running high, security remains a key concern. Some 18,000 police and military are deployed to maintain the peace and protect government buildings. However, sporadic shootings have killed eight people and wounded scores of others since the protests began late last year.
Authorities say they are ready to declare a state of emergency if there is fresh unrest.
Thailand’s military has urged all sides to remain calm, but after launching 18 coups in the past 81 years, the possibility of another coup cannot be ruled out.

You May Like

Malaysian PM Ends Vacation Over Floods

Najib Razak had been criticized for golfing in Hawaii with US president while country suffered More

Photogallery Fear Amid Remembrances for Tsunami Victims

Across continent, services and tributes acknowledge 220,000 victims of 2004 Indian Ocean disaster; region remains inadequately prepared, experts say More

Liberia Lawmaker Denies Election Manipulation

Alex Tyler said he’s being used as a scapegoat by people who are refusing to accept defeat in the December 20 special senatorial election More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
January 13, 2014 6:15 AM
who is behind this?
people who without confidence about the election can represent people?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syriai
Jeff Seldin
December 24, 2014 11:38 PM
Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Estimates Rising of Foreign Fighters in Iraq, Syria

Foreign fighters are making more of a mark on the battles raging across Syria and Iraq than initially thought. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Russians Head Into Holiday Facing Economic Malaise

Russian preparations for the New Year holiday are clouded by economic recession and a tumbling currency, the ruble. Nonetheless, people in the Russian capital appear to be in a festive mood. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

Video Mombasa in Holiday Tourism Slump Due to Security Fears

Kenya's usually popular beachside tourist destination of Mombasa is seeing a much slower holiday season this year due to fears of insecurity as the country has suffered from a string of terror attacks linked to Somali militants. Mohammed Yusuf reports for VOA on how businessmen and tourists feel about the situation.

Video For Somalis, 2014 Marked by Political Instability Within Government

While Somalia has long been torn apart by warfare and violence, this year one of the country's biggest challenges has come from within the government, as political infighting curtails the country's progress, threatens security gains and disappoints the international community. VOA's Gabe Joselow report.

Video US Political Shift Could Affect Iran Nuclear Talks

Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis are continuing into 2015 after Iran and six world powers failed to agree by a November deadline. U.S. domestic politics, however, could complicate efforts to reach a deal in the new year. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.

Video NYSE: The Icon of Capitalism

From its humble beginnings in 1792 to its status as an economic bellweather for the world, the New York Stock Exchange is an integral part of the story of America. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from Wall Street.

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.

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.

All About America