News / Asia

Thai Protesters Begin 'Shutdown' of Bangkok

Anti-government protesters wave national flags as they block intersection during rally in Bangkok, Jan. 13, 2014.
Anti-government protesters wave national flags as they block intersection during rally in Bangkok, Jan. 13, 2014.
Ron Corben
Thai opposition protesters have begun their attempted shutdown of the capital city of Bangkok, occupying key intersections in the downtown area and bringing in sandbags, tents and food in preparation for a prolonged standoff. Police estimated the the turnout in the morning at 31,300, but that number is likely to grow in the evening.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban spent most of the afternoon marching from one protest site to another, collecting donations and posing for pictures with demonstrators.

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called on security forces to exercise restraint as anti-government protesters converge on the capital city. The so-called "Bangkok shutdown" is aimed at forcing the prime minister from office and delaying elections set for February 2. Authorities are deploying 18,000 troops and police to protect government buildings and keep demonstrations peaceful. Police are expected to allow protesters to shut down key roads in the city of 10 million people.

Thai Foreign Minister and a deputy government leader, Surapong Tovichakchaikul, told a news conference Sunday that the prime minister wanted security forces to keep the situation calm while trying to limit the impact on business and tourism. In the afternoon, Surapong confirmed that the government would not be declaring a state of emergency in resoponse to the protests.

Prime Minister Yingluck has ordered all police and military personnel to exercise utmost restraint and not to use all kinds of weapons in handling the protesters - the police and military personnel will use only shields and batons and perform their duties according to international standards, said Surapong.

Since demonstrations erupted late last year, at least nine people have died and hundreds have been injured in protest related violence. Police have used tear gas and water cannons to keep protesters from occupying some government buildings. On Saturday, Thailand's army chief expressed concern about possible violence and urged all sides to avoid conflict.

The situation has also drawn the attention of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who called for dialogue.

Suthep rejected appeals for talks in an interview published Sunday, but said he would back down if the standoff grew into a confrontation that threatened civil war. Speaking to The Nation newspaper, the former lawmaker also said he does not want a military coup.

The situation has led to fears of a repeat of Bangkok's violence in 2010, when more than 90 people died and hundreds were injured in the country's worst political violence in decades.

The latest protests were triggered when Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party passed an amnesty bill that would have cleared former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives overseas, of corruption charges. The bill was later annulled by the Senate but protests continued. In a bid to stem the political pressure Yingluck dissolved the government and called for general elections for February 2.

The Election Commission has repeatedly expressed concern over the upcoming polls, warning that instability and the success of protesters in blocking candidates from registering in 28 districts threatens the vote.

On Sunday the Election Commission proposed to the government that it postpone the vote until May 4. But Commerce Minister Niwatthumrong Boonsonpaison said by law it was the election commission's responsibility to oversee the elections, not the government.

"We have no choice. We have to do things according to the law and in an election it is not the duty of the government, the election commission has that duty by law -- so if they want to delay or something they would have to initiate," he said.

People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has rejected even a postponed election, instead calling for formation of a non-elected council to oversee political reforms before holding new polls.

Business leader and economists are warning the prolonged siege could cost the economy $1.3 billion with consumption falling sharply and concerns over investment and tourism.

More than 40 embassies have issued travel warnings to their nationals over concerns the impact the protests will have on foreign residents and travelers.

In downtown Sukhumvit Road, which is a focal point of the protests, visitor Jonathan Caskey from the United States said the concerns over Monday's protests led him to change his travel plans.

"There's just uncertainty and so we've asked people and it seems things have been peaceful but there's no way of knowing the future and so we thought - why not just go down to the beach where we know things will be fine down there, whereas it could be uncertain in Bangkok," he said.

Thailand's army has launched 18 coups or attempted coups since the end of absolute monarchy rule in 1932, but generals have largely stayed on the sidelines of the current conflict.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs