News / Asia

    Thai Opposition Still Undecided on Participation in Feb. 2 Election

    Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greets a crowd of anti-government protesters before making an address outside Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 9, 2013.
    Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greets a crowd of anti-government protesters before making an address outside Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 9, 2013.
    Reuters
    Anti-government demonstrators in Thailand said they will step up their protests in an attempt to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and push through electoral reforms before a general election is held.
     
    The number of protesters camped on the street in the capital has dwindled to about 2,000 over the past week, but their leader, former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, called for marches in central Bangkok on Thursday and Friday, to be followed by a big rally on Sunday.
     
    “We will chase Yingluck out this Sunday after she made it clear she will not step down as caretaker prime minister,” he said late on Tuesday.
     
    Suthep massed 160,000 protesters around Yingluck's office on December 9, when she called a snap election for February 2 in an attempt to defuse the crisis. Yingluck currently remains caretaker prime minister.
     
    Suthep has sought the backing of the influential military but has so far been rebuffed. Thailand's military - a frequent actor in Thai politics - ousted Yingluck's brother, the self-exiled Thaksin Shinawatra, when he was premier in 2006.
     
    “We will walk until the number of people who come out to join us outnumber those who elected Yingluck. We will march until the military and civil servants finally join us,” Suthep told reporters.
     
    Earlier this month, a court issued an arrest warrant for Suthep on the charge of insurrection, but police have done nothing to apprehend him, despite his appearance at a seminar with the military and other public events.
     
    On Wednesday, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Thailand's equivalent of the U.S. FBI, said it would ask banks to freeze the accounts of 18 rally leaders, including Suthep, to investigate what it called “suspicious activity”. Observers see this as a sign the authorities might be taking a tougher stance.
     
    “We will investigate whether they are funding the protest or if any suspicious transactions have taken place,” DSI chief Tarit Pengdith told reporters.
     
    Thailand's eight-year political conflict centers on Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon popular among the rural poor because of cheap healthcare and other policies introduced while he was in power.
     
    Yingluck won a landslide victory in 2011 and her Pheu Thai Party is well placed to win again because of Thaksin's strong support in the populous, rural north and northeast.
     
    Ranged against him are the royalist establishment, which feels threatened by Thaksin's rise, and, in the past at least, the army. Some academics see him as a corrupt rights abuser; the middle class resents what they see as their taxes being spent on wasteful populist policies that amount to vote-buying.
     
    Thaksin chose to live in exile after fleeing in 2008 just before being sentenced to jail for abuse of power in a trial that he says was politically motivated.
     
    Democrats at Odds
     
    Even if the election takes place on February 2, its legitimacy could be undermined if the main opposition Democrat Party does not take part.
     
    At a two-day conference that ended on Tuesday, the party reappointed former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva as its leader. However, its members could not agree whether to run in the election or back the street protesters.
     
    Democrat lawmakers resigned from parliament this month to march with Suthep, who was a deputy prime minister in Abhisit's government until 2011.
     
    Some agree with his call for reforms to be implemented before another election is held, but others believe their party, Thailand's oldest, should respect the democratic process and run for office. A decision is expected on Saturday.
     
    Suthep's program remains vague and it is unclear how long it would take his proposed “people's council” to implement any reforms.
     
    He wants to wipe out vote-buying and electoral fraud and has also promised “forceful laws to eradicate corruption”, decentralization of power, the end of “superficial populist policies that enable corruption”, and the reform of “certain state agencies such as the police force”.
     
    Suthep's protest gained impetus in early November after Yingluck's government tried to push through a political amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home a free man.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora