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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs