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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs