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.
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

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs