News / Asia

Thousands Protest Against Thai Government

Anti-government protesters shout as they get ready to attack a police barricade near the Government house in Bangkok, Nov. 25, 2013.
Anti-government protesters shout as they get ready to attack a police barricade near the Government house in Bangkok, Nov. 25, 2013.
Ron Corben
Thailand is facing escalating political tensions as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have turned out in Bangkok, pressing the government to resign.

Anti-government street rallies escalated Monday as protestors marched to key government buildings, briefly occupying the finance ministry and targeting state enterprises, police and army and the ministry of interior.

There were no initial reports of violence or trouble as protestors handed flowers to state officials amid calls by rally leaders to enter buildings peacefully.

Monday's rallies followed a major gathering Sunday where an estimated 100,000 people turned out to call for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government to resign.

Protestors are also calling for an end to what critics see as the excessive influence of her brother, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains overseas to avoid a two year jail term for corruption.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said the outlook for the government is highly uncertain. "It's going to be a tumultuous week, very precarious. Something will have to give. The government now has to respond," said Pongsudhirak. "The protestors are demanding the entire overhaul, uprooting of everything associated with Thaksin Shinawatra,  which is an open ended, very difficult demand to meet."

  • Well-wishers hold pictures of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Dec. 4, 2013, as they camp outside the palace where he is staying in Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan province, Thailand, a day before his birthday.
  • Anti-government protesters shout as they break down the barriers at the Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok, Dec. 4, 2013. 
  • An anti-government protester sweeps the street around the Democracy Monument, Bangkok, Dec. 4, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters sweep the street around the Democracy Monument after weeks of protesting and days of clashes with police in Bangkok's city center, Dec. 4, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester uses a wire cutter in an attempt to break down the barriers at the Thai Police Headquarters, Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 4, 2013. 
  • Anti-government protesters gesture towards riot police outside the headquarters of the ruling Puea Thai Party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Bangkok, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester gestures towards riot police outside the headquarters of the ruling Puea Thai Party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Bangkok, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters shout slogans outside the headquarters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Puea Thai Party in Bangkok, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters march to the government complex in Bangkok, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister leading the protest, waves to his supporters during an anti-government march in Bangkok, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • Supporters cheer anti-government protesters marching in Bangkok, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • A Buddhist monk blows a whistle during a rally outside Interior Ministry in Bangkok, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Riot police stand guard behind barricades during an anti-government rally in Bangkok, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters march toward Thailand's Finance Ministry in Bangkok, Nov. 25, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester fights with police at a barricade near Government House in Bangkok, Nov. 25, 2013.

The latest round of protests started earlier this month when the government attempted to pass a blanket amnesty bill for everyone involved in Thailand's political conflicts of recent years. Thailand's Senate voted down the measure which many believed would have allowed Mr. Thaksin to return to Thailand a free man.

The government faced another setback last week when the Constitutional Court ruled against a bill to provide for a fully elected upper house of parliament. The Senate at present consists of half elected members and the remainder appointed. Critics claimed the bill would allow for relatives of existing parliamentary members to be elected to the upper house, undermining its independence.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a former government spokesman and political scientist, said the government is now seen to be 'struggling' in the face of the rising political tensions. "The government is struggling to find an appropriate response. If this situation continues too long the legitimacy of the government could be destroyed because never before do you have people who are coming out on the streets like this and demanding the system to be more responsive to the needs of the people," he stated.

A red-shirted supporter holds up a pictures of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, during a rally at Rajamangala national stadium in Bangkok, Nov. 19, 2013.A red-shirted supporter holds up a pictures of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, during a rally at Rajamangala national stadium in Bangkok, Nov. 19, 2013.
x
A red-shirted supporter holds up a pictures of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, during a rally at Rajamangala national stadium in Bangkok, Nov. 19, 2013.
A red-shirted supporter holds up a pictures of Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, during a rally at Rajamangala national stadium in Bangkok, Nov. 19, 2013.
While pressure builds against the government, its supporters, known as Red Shirts, under the leadership of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, are massing at a stadium on the outskirts of Bangkok.

UDD chairwoman, Tida Tawornseth, said the government remains confident of riding out the latest political storm. "[The government] thinks that they keep everything in the normal situation. But we don't want to put other pressure so we try to have our people on the stadium. But we will try to get more and more people," Tawornseth said. "They said that they can control, but anyway we don't want to see any violence. We don't want the government to make the situation that maybe [leads] to a military coup."

The Yingluck administration's first two years in office marked a period of stability for Thailand's occasionally raucous politics. But with mounting street protests and legal challenges, including corruption charges against the Prime Minister and senior cabinet ministers, there are signs that the country's politics are entering a new, more volatile phase.

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

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