News / Asia

Thai Crisis Deepens as PM's Supporters Threaten Protesters

Anti-government protesters camp outside Government House, which houses Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's office, in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 11, 2013.
Anti-government protesters camp outside Government House, which houses Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's office, in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 11, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— The red-shirted supporters of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said on Wednesday they were ready to take to the streets to protect her embattled government from an elite-backed protest movement seeking to install unelected leaders.

The warning by Thailand's mostly working poor "red shirts" highlights the risks ahead in a political crisis fuelled by middle-class anger over the electoral and legislative power of the Shinawatra family, revered as populist heroes in the vote-rich north and northeast, red-shirt bastions.

The crisis has veered from violent protests in which five people were killed and more than 300 wounded to occupations of government  buildings and, in recent days, bewildering statements by anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a veteran politician who resigned from the opposition to lead the protesters.

He has called on police to arrest Yingluck for treason, ordered civil servants to report to him instead of the government and called for citizen "peacekeeping forces" to take over from police. On Wednesday, he told the army and police chiefs to report to him by Thursday.

"We have set the time of 8 p.m. Thursday as our deadline to meet with security heads," he told reporters.

It's unclear if they will listen. But missed deadlines have become the norm for a protest movement that has relied on the oxygen of publicity and openly courted anarchy on the streets of the capital in the hope of triggering a military coup or judicial intervention to bring down Yingluck.

Threatened national strikes have failed to materialize. Police have ignored calls to withdraw from posts. Multiple deadlines for toppling the government have passed with Yingluck visibly shaken but still in power.

Demonstrations reached a crescendo on Monday when 160,000 people rallied in Bangkok, causing Yingluck to dissolve parliament and call a snap election for Feb. 2. That vote that may be meaningless if the opposition Democrat Party, which backs the protests, decide to boycott it.
|
Suthep, a silver-haired former deputy prime minister in the previous government that Yingluck's ruling party beat by a landslide in 2011, has pressed forward with a plan to install an unelected "people's council" made up of appointed "good people."

If that happens, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), as the red shirts are known, would rally to Yingluck's side, said Jatuporn Promphan, one of its leaders.

"It is the UDD's job to bring together en masse the red shirts and those who love democracy and don't agree with Suthep's methods. There will be many more people than Suthep managed to gather," he told Reuters in an interview.

Political  impasse

Suthep, who a few weeks ago resigned the parliamentary seat he had held for 34 years, derives support from a small but powerful minority: the royalist elite in Bangkok and the opposition Democrats, the country's oldest party, which has failed to win an election since 1992.

In 2010, he authorized a crackdown by security forces that left downtown Bangkok burning and killed scores of red shirts, who say they remain supportive of Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in self-exile to avoid jail for abuse of power charges that he says were politically motivated.

The impasse leaves Thailand gripped by a crisis that could drag on for weeks and possibly end with Suthep's group seizing power if the politically powerful military comes to his side, or if the judiciary gets involved, a familiar pattern in Thailand.

Although Thaksin or his allies have won every election of the past decade, the politicized courts have often intervened, annulling an election won by Thaksin in 2006 on a technicality and later dissolving his Thai Rak Thai Party for electoral fraud.
|
His party's next incarnation, the People's Power Party, suffered the same fate. Nearly 150 executives of both parties were banned for five years.

Suthep says his People's Council would eradicate the influence of Thaksin, a billionaire who remains a powerful force in Yingluck's  government and sometimes convenes cabinet meetings by webcam from his villa in Dubai. Late on Tuesday, Suthep called for protesters to target Yingluck's entire family.

"When Suthep speaks he should bear in mind that there are millions of Thais who love Thaksin and love the Shinawatra family," red-shirt leader Thida Thawornseth told Reuters.

"Where does Suthep come off thinking he can speak on behalf of all Thais?" she added. "Suthep has said Yingluck cannot go anywhere in Thailand without being insulted. What about him? He is the one who should be worried."

The comments suggest the protests could lead to a wider conflict if Yingluck's elected government is forcibly removed.

After courts brought down two Thaksin-allied governments in 2008 and the Democrats came to power through a parliamentary vote believed to be orchestrated by the military, the red shirts paralyzed Bangkok in  April-May 2010 with protests that ended with a bloody military crackdown.

A year later, the Democrats suffered badly in an election.

The red shirts cut short a rally on Dec. 1 after fatal clashes around the stadium where it was being held and postponed a mass demonstration that had been planned for Ayutthaya, to the north of Bangkok, on Dec. 10.

Asked what would bring them out on to the street, Jatuporn said: "When chaos ensues or when Suthep's side uses violent methods to gain power."

Akanat Promphan, Suthep's step-son and the movement's spokesman, said if Yingluck stepped down, the Senate would nominate a "neutral prime minister" and the "People's Council" would be the legislative body and help set up a "parallel government."

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid