News / Asia

Thai Government Seeks Military Help to Protect Polls

FILE - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces the media during a news conference at The Army Club in Bangkok, Dec. 10, 2013.
FILE - Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces the media during a news conference at The Army Club in Bangkok, Dec. 10, 2013.
Reuters
— The Thai government announced on Friday that it will ask the military to help protect candidates and voters in a February election after clashes between police and anti-government protesters in which two people were killed and scores wounded.
 
The call for help from the powerful but heavily politicized military demonstrates Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's determination to ensure the election goes ahead. The vote is almost certain to return her Pheu Thai Party to power.
 
Any delay to the polls could leave her embattled government and party exposed to an escalation of street protests and legal challenges that would leave the country in limbo.
 
Her government on Thursday rebuffed a request by the Election Commission to delay the Feb. 2 vote until there was “mutual consent” from all sides - an increasingly unlikely outcome after Thursday's deadly clashes at an election registration venue.
 
Ranged against each other are Yingluck and her supporters among the rural poor in the populous north and northeast and protesters from Bangkok's middle class and elite, who see her as a puppet of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
 
Thaksin, a former telecoms billionaire who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, is a hero for millions of poor voters who have handed his parties victory in every election since 2001.
 
His opponents accuse him of manipulating a fragile democracy by effectively buying the support of voters with populist policies such as cheap healthcare, easy credit and subsidies for rice farmers.
 
Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul on Friday said he would ask military chiefs for help securing candidate registrations on Saturday.
 
“We will also discuss together how to take care of safety for the people who will come to vote on February 2,” Surapong said in a televised announcement.
 
The military has remained neutral in the latest turmoil, apart from offering to act as a mediator, even though protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a fiery former deputy premier, has sought to drag the military into the conflict on the anti-government side.
 
The military has staged or attempted 18 coups over the past 80 years - including the ousting of Thaksin in 2006 - and it is again likely to play a crucial role in the latest round of a crisis that has dragged on for eight years.
 
Economic Cost
      
Surapong also reiterated that the government had no intention of delaying the vote despite the Election Commission's request.
 
The protesters have vowed to disrupt the ballot and are demanding Yingluck steps down so that an appointed “People's Council” can introduce reforms before any vote takes place.
 
More broadly, their aim is to neutralize the power of the billionaire Shinawatra family. Muddying the waters further, the main opposition Democrat Party announced that it will boycott the vote. The Democrats also boycotted the 2006 poll in the run-up to Thaksin’s removal by coup d’etat; some have interpreted the boycott as an attempt to lay the groundwork for another military intervention.
 
Yingluck, who has spent most of the past week outside Bangkok shoring up support in the north, has tried to avoid confrontation, fearing her opponents would stir chaos deliberately to trigger an intervention, either by the military or the judiciary.
 
The weeks of protests had been largely peaceful, even though as many as 200,000 people have been on the streets. A hardcore of about 500 protesters, some carrying knives and slingshots, were behind Thursday's violence.
 
On Friday, the Public Health Ministry announced one protester had died from injuries suffered the previous day. A policeman was killed by an unidentified gunman on Thursday. The ministry said 153 people were wounded, 39 of them police.
 
The crisis is starting to drag on the economy. The Thai baht plumbed close to four-year lows this week and Thai stocks fell two percent after Thursday's violence.
 
The Finance Ministry cut its growth forecast for 2013 on Thursday, due in part to the political unrest; 2014 forecasts are also in jeopardy.
 
The first two years of Yingluck's government had been relatively smooth, but protests began in earnest when her party miscalculated in November and tried to push through an amnesty bill. The bill would have allowed Thaksin to return a free man without serving a two-year sentence for corruption.
 
Thaksin fled into exile in 2008 shortly before he was sentenced to jail on the graft charges.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid