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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More