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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora