News / Asia

Bangkok Protesters Demand Reform

Waving flags and placards, Thai anti-government protesters make their way on a street during a march rally from the government complex on the outskirts of the capital to downtown Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 9, 2013.
Waving flags and placards, Thai anti-government protesters make their way on a street during a march rally from the government complex on the outskirts of the capital to downtown Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 9, 2013.
Ron Corben
Anti-government protesters in Bangkok have succeeded in cutting short the ruling party's tenure, but many say new elections are not enough.

Protesters Monday marched through downtown Bangkok's Sukhumvit thoroughfare, a key artery of the city lined with expensive high-rise apartments, shopping malls and office towers.

As news came that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was dissolving parliament and announcing new elections, Apirak Kosayodin, a Democrat Party member, said the dissolution is merely the beginning of broader reforms.

Bangkok Police Station, map of ministries and police stationBangkok Police Station, map of ministries and police station
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Bangkok Police Station, map of ministries and police station
Bangkok Police Station, map of ministries and police station
"At least at the first step she would recognize the voice from the Thai people but they still have a further process that she needs to work, or the Thai people need to work together for the next reform," said Democrat Party member Apirak Kosayodin.

​Protest leaders have proposed an unelected council to replace Thailand's democratically elected government until elections are held. The prime minister has rejected the demand as unconstitutional and many observers have said it would be a step backward for one of Southeast Asia's most prosperous and politically open countries.

Related video clip: Thailand Protest

Thai Prime Minister Calls New Elections, Protesters not Satisfiedi
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December 09, 2013 10:54 AM
Thailand's government says new elections will likely be held by February 2, after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced Monday she is dissolving parliament following more than a month of anti-government protests in the capital, Bangkok.

But Democrat Party member Apirak said there is a need for wider social and economic reforms.

"People are really looking forward to the reform process for Thailand to be a much better place, including anti-corruption, decentralization, empowerment for the local government, reform for the education. Thai people will think beyond, beyond even though the government has already dissolved the parliament," he stated.

Such policies on improving education and empowering local government could appeal to voters in the rural north, the traditional political stronghold of the ruling Pheu Thai party.

The party of Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has backed policies that benefit rural Thais, including a controversial rice subsidy that has elevated prices, enriching farmers. But the rice scheme has cost the government billions of dollars and sparked warnings from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it is undermining confidence in the country's finances.

Khun Som, a banker and protester in Bangkok, said the rice scheme is a prime example of the kind of corruption protesters want to end.

"Thaksin do everything for himself; he does not think for the poor people. We want to help the poor people. [But] when they do the rice scheme they only want to get money for themselves - the politician - small amount of money go to the farmer," Khun explained. "The big money go to the politician - we don't want that to continue."

Protesters on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, Dec. 9, 2013. (Ron Corben for VOA)Protesters on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, Dec. 9, 2013. (Ron Corben for VOA)
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Protesters on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, Dec. 9, 2013. (Ron Corben for VOA)
Protesters on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, Dec. 9, 2013. (Ron Corben for VOA)
It is still not clear what reforms could lead to greater government transparency. But many in Monday's protests like Khun 'Dew', a finance sector employee, says the massive turnout marks an important step. "It's a very important day for Thailand because we don't want the Thaksin corruption. I think people should come out and have their right to protest the country," Khun said.

As evening fell on Bangkok Monday, protesters said they would camp out overnight at the prime minister's offices, continuing a rally that has succeeded in dissolving parliament, but failed to provide a clear path for the next step.

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by: raphael eretz from: nakhon pathom
December 12, 2013 10:18 PM
when the yellow shirts took the aiport one person lost her lifethe govt at the time did not use force,to stop anymore the prime minister stood down.bangkok 91 lost their lives the govt step down? in your dreams this time yellow shirts at it again yingluck steps down tell me who has the people interest at heart?a Frenchman once said I disagree with what you have said but will die for the right of you to say it ( voltare) I wonder if anyone in Thailand has heard that?
In Response

by: Olddog from: Bangkok
December 13, 2013 10:43 AM
The yellow shirts now are a small subset of the current protesters and I am certain that the majority of the current protesters do not condone the taking of the airport by the yellow shirts. The red shirts then and now resort to violence, mainly with their militant brigade with machine guns, grenade launchers, etc. I don't think the people in Bangkok will tolerate that mode of operations anymore and the political gathering of the red shirts in Bangkok will be very very dangerous. I hope that the red shirts' leaders realize this fact. We do have educated people in Thailand who can appreciate the western principles of democracy like the one you cited. We are also smart enough to distinguish between citing democracy in disguise for a dictator and the actual owning and practicing democracy with its various principles in the hearts.

by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
December 12, 2013 8:09 AM
Anti-government protesters always lash out at corruption,I wonder why they don't prosecute Prime Minister Yingluck and her government,This is only one legitimate way .
Anti-government protesters always yell for more democracy, I wonder why protesters don't want to take part in a national election.
How hypocritical the protesters are.

by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
December 12, 2013 4:08 AM
Anti-government protesters always lash out at corruption,I wonder why they don't proscute Prime Minister Yingluck and her government,This is a legitimate way.
Anti-government protesters always yell for more democracy, I wonder why protesters don't want to take part in a national election.
What hypocritical thugs the protesters are.
In Response

by: Olddog from: Bangkok
December 12, 2013 9:28 PM
They are also pushing the legitimate way to prosecute the cabinet and the majority parties through existing legal mechanisms. If you have time to look closer to the facts, in Thailand, the existing mechanisms to empower good and capable people to govern and to punish bad and corrupt people are not effective and seriously need overhaul. As you can witness the participation of the red shirt leaders in the cabinet and the parliament while they are still being prosecuted, deliberately slowly, for the troubles they caused in the riots of 2010. Looking closer, you can see the exploitation of the current national election in the rural areas by thugs and regional and national level mainly by vote buying. The protesters are not against democracy not election. They are pushing for political reform to fix the mechanism before the next election.

by: stupid
December 10, 2013 6:30 PM
Never in my life would I imagine a bunch of elitists crying about policies (not bribery)....All you are doing is hurting your own self worth....And possibly your future fortunes. You are against the poor being helped? That's what is shown because not once has an attempt been made to teach the poor how to handle the money given to them, instead you say they are bribed....And and now after receiving all of your demands and then some. You create a whole new list.....hitler much

by: luka from: Norway
December 10, 2013 10:12 AM
Because of her Big Brother...

by: nudaeng ng from: Bangkok
December 10, 2013 8:47 AM
As one of protesters, I think you underestimate number of protesters.Actually, there are 9 path to be there at government house and take more than tens kilometers . All path was crowded with people. To be correct your news, you should said that more than millions Thai demonstrators to against PM Yingluck. Most peoples lives in Bangkok and south of Thailand. They are Thai people who capable to reach information about PM Yingluck's corruption very well , blanket amnesty bill for Mr.Thaksin (most corruption politician in Thailand).

by: Leelee
December 09, 2013 9:59 PM
Thanks for a great article! I am still unsure on a lot of things regarding the protests however... If the a political reform does happen and 'people's council' do turn out to rule the country, isn't that more centralised? Who is the people's council?

by: Bangkok Bob from: San Francisco
December 09, 2013 9:51 PM
Yellow shirts seem to be representing the elite and not the "Thai people" in my opinion. After spending two weeks in Thung Krep and watching on a daily basis the redshirts were peaceful and law abiding in their protests while the yellow shirt leaders ,led by that mafia kingpin from South Thailand, were duping their followers in trying tro overthrow the ruling party. Suggestion: If the yellow shirts are truly representing the Thai people then why don't they hold OPEN elections after an honest campaign on both sides. Then and only then can the Thai people make their own choice for leadership w/o being coerced or duped by either party.
In Response

by: Jay in SoCal from: Itinerant
December 11, 2013 12:22 PM
Bob, look a little deeper. You'll find that things are not what they seem. And your depiction of "red shirt" behavior is just flat wrong, considering their history.

Discussion around the issues with Thai governance has unfortunately degenerated into "red" this and "yellow" that. The ideological differences are not about "elite" vs. "poor" at all. They never were. What is simple is the fact is that Shinawatra is not good for Thailand. He proved it from 2001-2006, while doing what every corrupt politician from Washington to Bangkok to Beijing does -- handing out crumbs in high visibility areas while handing over the state coffers to business cronies.

We are all doing Thailand a disservice by looking at the current crisis in simplistic terms. The reporting by the VOA has actually been good. A step in the right direction.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
December 09, 2013 8:59 PM
Thank you VOA, now I understand some claims that protesters are demanding beyond the dissolution of parliament, that is, anti-corruption, decentralization, empowerment for the local government, reform for the education.

Subsidy from government to rice growing farmers has been executed for a long time in Japan too and now it is going to be faded out in a few years facing the free trade negotiation of TPP. Rural farmers opposed this political change of ruling party at the beginning but has accepted it after all. It is the fact that ruling politicians have got a trade off of seats for subsidy to their supporters in rural farming areas.

by: tedefr1 from: USA
December 09, 2013 8:38 PM
I hope that the precepts of the Buddha will be remembered by all Thais and that sall the unhappiness will end soon.
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