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

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

A new Iranian leader -- and a strategic shift by the United States -- opens narrow window for nuclear agreement with Tehran More

Column: Saudi-Iran Meeting Could Boost Fight Against Islamic State

The fact that Iranians and Saudis are talking again does not guarantee a breakthrough, but it could make it easier to build a broad coalition against IS More

Thai Ruler Gives Top Cabinet Posts to Junta Inner Circle

Thailand's army chief has kept an iron grip on power as he extends the government, hand-picking an interim parliament that subsequently nominated him prime minister More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid