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.
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

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

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.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs