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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid