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

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers 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 Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More