News / Asia

Thai Government Concerned Over Rising Casualties, Blames Militias for Violence



The Thai government has expressed concern over the rising toll from security operations in the capital Bangkok, and blames armed militias for the violence. At least 24 people have died since the government began efforts to clear anti-government protesters out of their camp in the city center.

Listen to Schearf's first live report:

Listen to Schearf's second live report:

Fighting continues sporadically on Saturday, with repeated explosions and gunfire heard from the protest zone in Bangkok.

Red-shirt protesters Saturday took over a key highway intersection on Bangkok's outskirts, and there were clashes at a city monument a few kilometers from their Rajaprasong camp site.

Diplomatic sources told VOA that Western embassies have been warned of possible grenade attacks on department stores, intended to draw security forces away from Rajaprasong.

Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn says while the government is worried about the casualties, security forces now face attack from armed red-shirt militias. And Thai television showed red shirts surrounding army trucks and forcibly removing the soldiers and taking their guns.

"We are very concerned and the operations will be adjusted as we face strong resistance from several groups of people attacking the checkpoints - it is very unusual to have groups of people with weapons attacking the check points. This is not a normal situation," he said.

At the Rajaprasong site Saturday speakers continued to attack the government over the violence.

A police officer at a hospital close to where red shirts rested said the two sides need to reopen talks.

The officer says the red shirts still want new elections and the lifting of the emergency security decree. The red shirt leaders hoped that after being arrested they could be granted bail. But many within the protest site fear the army will soon attack.

The international community has expressed concern about the situation. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon called on both sides to return to dialogue to "de-escalate the situation and resolve matters peacefully".

Panitan, the government spokesman, says the foreign minister will contact embassies to provide updates o the current situation. But he said it is a "domestic matter".

"We hope that they understand that this is a domestic matter," he said. "We hope not only [that] the international community understands, [but] that they will support us. This is a threat to our national security. This armed militia gunmen - it's a new phenomenon in the Thai politics."

The red shirts began their protest two months ago, demanding immediate elections because they consider the current government to be illegitimate.

Two weeks ago, the government offered a compromise that included November elections and it appeared the protest might end. However, talks fell apart over how several episodes of violence in April would be investigated.

Many red shirts support former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006. He now lives overseas to avoid a prison sentence for corruption. Mr. Thaksin remains popular among the urban poor and working class, but the urban elite and middle class consider him corrupt.

The protests and violence are the worst political crisis in the country in 18 years and threaten to create broad instability in the country.

You May Like

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Tattoos, hookah bars and doughnuts? Google Maps lays out what people really have on their minds during the holiday

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs