News / Asia

Thai Minister Rejects Proposal for Talks

FILE - Thailand's Labor Minister Chalerm Yubamrung.
FILE - Thailand's Labor Minister Chalerm Yubamrung.
Reuters
A senior Thai minister rejected a proposal for talks from the leader of an anti-government protest movement on Friday as demonstrators rallied at ministries to put pressure on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.
 
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban had suggested that he and Yingluck should hold a televised debate.
 
"Yingluck is the legitimate leader of the country and Suthep is a man with warrants for his arrest who heads an illegal movement. The prime minister should not talk to Suthep," said Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who oversees a state of emergency imposed last month.
 
"Suthep is only proposing negotiations, even though he dismissed them before, because protest numbers are dwindling," said Chalerm.
 
The protesters have blocked big intersections in the capital, Bangkok, since mid-January and forced many ministries to close as part of a four-month campaign to push out Yingluck and eradicate the political influence of her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the real power in Thailand.
 
Violence is rising, with almost daily gun and grenade attacks taking place around protest sites by unidentified people. Twenty three people have been killed since November.
 
Thailand's powerful army chief, asked by reporters on Friday whether the violence would trigger a military coup, remained noncommittal and expressed exasperation at the same question being put to him all the time.
 
"We must not discuss this every day," he said. "I can't promise whether there will be a coup or not."
 
Protest leader Suthep's debate offer on Thursday came after weeks of refusing to talk.
 
However, in a speech to supporters later, he showed his more combative side, blaming Yingluck for weekend attacks on protesters in which five people were killed, including four children.
 
"You have murdered four young, innocent children, Yingluck," he said, challenging her supporters in the rural north and northeast of the country to a fight in the capital.
 
"Come to Bangkok and try to start a civil war," he said. "Let's see who can assemble more people, come on."
 
Yingluck, speaking from the northern city of Chiang Mai, gave a guarded response to the idea of a debate.
 
"The talks have to have a framework, though I am not sure what that framework would look like," she said on Thursday.
 
Talk of a possible civil war has picked up recently.
 
"I don't think it will get that bad. Thais are hot-blooded... so we must control the situation using the law," Prayuth said.
 
Botched amnesty
      
The crisis broadly pits members of Bangkok's middle-class and southern opposition supporters, backed by the royalist establishment, against the largely rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin.
 
After a period of calm following Yingluck's election win in 2011, opposition swelled when her government tried to push through a political amnesty that would have let Thaksin return from self-imposed exile without having to serve a jail sentence for graft. He has said those charges were politically motivated.
 
Thaksin was toppled by the army in 2006. The military has tried to stay above the fray this time, but Yingluck is still facing multiple challenges from the courts, which threw out two governments allied to Thaksin in 2008.
 
On Thursday, she was formally served with charges of negligence relating to a government rice subsidy programs that has failed disastrously, leaving hundreds of thousands of farmers unpaid and costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
 
Yingluck faces removal from office and a five-year ban from politics if she is found guilty. She has until March 14 to try to refute the charges, after which the anti-corruption agency will decide whether to take the case further.
 
She called an election for Feb. 2 to try to end the crisis but it was disrupted by the protesters.
 
The Election Commission will try to hold polls on Sunday in five provinces where voting was not completed. Election re-runs planned for April in other provinces has been suspended pending a court decision on procedures.
 
The protesters want to set up a "people's council" of unspecified worthy people to force through political and electoral changes before a new general election is held, hoping that will stop parties loyal to Thaksin from winning.
 
Although Suthep still manages to draw big crowds when he marches around the city, the number of protesters has dwindled and many ministries have been able to reopen.
 
Critics have accused the military of siding with the protesters, a charge denied by army chief Prayuth.
      
"If indeed we sided with the protesters we would already be with the protesters. We have sent soldiers to look after security around protest sites for everyone's benefit," said Prayuth.
 
Sophon Pisutwong, a police commissioner with the body overseeing a state of emergency in Bangkok, said 63 out of 82 ministries and state agencies had reopened completely or partially, including the Finance Ministry, although some of its officials were working from backup locations as a precaution.
 
The protracted crisis has hurt confidence and domestic demand. Data from the Industry Ministry on Friday showed factory output fell 6.41 percent in January from a year before.­

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid