News / Asia

Thai PM Returns to Bangkok as Protest Showdown Looms

FILE - Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pauses as she talks to media after attending a Cabinet meeting, in Bangkok.
FILE - Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra pauses as she talks to media after attending a Cabinet meeting, in Bangkok.
Reuters
Embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra returned to the capital, Bangkok, on Wednesday for traditional New Year celebrations in a display of unity alongside military chiefs before a looming showdown with anti-government protesters.

Demonstrators who accuse Yingluck of being the puppet of her self-exiled brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, have vowed to occupy government ministries and other key sites in Bangkok in their bid to scuttle a snap Feb. 2 election.

The protests since late November have pitted the brother and sister's political machine with its base among the rural poor in the north against Bangkok's conservative elite.

It has flared into sporadic violence, and army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha refused to rule out a coup after wild clashes outside an election registration center a week ago. Three people have been killed since Thursday.

Yingluck, who is caretaker leader after calling the snap poll in a bid to defuse the crisis, had spent more than a week outside Bangkok shoring up support in the north but returned to the capital early on Wednesday.

She joined Prayuth and other senior military leaders in paying their respects to retired general Prem Tinsulanonda, the president of King Bhumibol Adulyadej's Privy Council. Prayuth's warning last week was a sobering reminder that the military has staged or attempted 18 coups in 81 years.

In a New Year message aired overnight, Thailand's revered King Bhumibol urged peace, prosperity and unity among Thais.

“Everyone's wishes do not seem to be very different, either for their own sake or for the peace of the country,” he said.

Wednesday's largely ceremonial duties were a prelude to what are shaping as rougher days ahead for Yingluck, whose Puea Thai Party normally would be expected to win the election.

The demonstrators, led by fiery former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, have vowed to derail the ballot and demand instead an appointed “people's council” before a future vote.

Suthep has vowed to seize ministries and other sites across the capital, although it is not clear when that will start. The main opposition Democrat Party has also declared it will boycott the election.

Thailand's Electoral Commission has offered to act as a mediator between Puea Thai, the Democrats and the protesters. Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said the commission would meet senior members of Puea Thai and the Democrats on Thursday, although he said the protesters had rejected a similar offer.

“I believe that something positive will come out of the meeting and the situation will ease up,” Thai media quoted Somchai as saying.

While the protests have mainly been in Bangkok, election registration has also been blocked in at least seven provinces in the south, where the protesters and Democrats draw support.

The wider aim of the protesters is to neutralize the power of Thaksin, who they say has manipulated democracy by buying the support of the rural poor with populist policies such as cheap healthcare and subsidies for rice farmers.

Thaksin was overthrown in a 2006 coup and fled into exile two years later to avoid jail for graft charges he said were politically motivated. In November, Puea Thai tried to push through an amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return a free man, sparking the latest round of protests.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs