News / Asia

Thai Protest Leader Rejects Compromise But Says 'No Civil War'

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban (C) greets his supporters as he leads thousands of anti-government demonstrators marching in Bangkok, Thailand Jan. 9, 2014.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban (C) greets his supporters as he leads thousands of anti-government demonstrators marching in Bangkok, Thailand Jan. 9, 2014.
Reuters
The leader of a movement trying to topple Thailand's government said he would call off his protest if civil war threatened to break out but rejected any compromise with the government ahead of a planned "shutdown" of the capital.

Supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra were rallying in her defence on Sunday but steered clear of Bangkok.

Life in the capital was much as normal most of the day but Reuters reporters said protesters were assembling in late afternoon in areas they intend to blockade from Monday, such as by the MBK shopping complex in the commercial heart of Bangkok.

Local media said they had blocked a road in front of a huge government administrative complex in the north of the city that they occupied for a time late last year and some had set up camp at Lat Phrao, one of the city's busiest intersections.

The anti-government protesters accuse Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, of corruption and nepotism. She has called an election for Feb. 2 but protesters want her caretaker government to step down immediately.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban ruled out talks with the government in an interview published on Sunday but said he would stand down his movement if, as some fear, violence escalates and civil war looms.

"If it becomes a civil war, I will give up. People's life is precious for me," he was reported as saying by the English-language Sunday Nation. "If someone instigates a civil war, I will tell the people to go home."

The eight-year conflict pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mostly poorer, rural supporters of Yingluck and Thaksin, who was overthrown in a military coup in 2006.

Their Puea Thai Party seems likely to win any new election, which the government says must be held on Feb. 2 now parliament has been dissolved and the date endorsed by the king.

However, a member of the Election Commission said on Saturday the vote could be held on May 4, arguing that was permissible under the constitution because candidates had been prevented from registering in some districts, meaning there would be no quorum to open parliament after a February poll.

Eight people, including two police officers, have been killed and scores injured in violence between protesters, police and government supporters in recent weeks.

Police said seven people were wounded early on Saturday when gunmen fired at anti-government protesters in central Bangkok near Khao San Road, a popular tourist area.

Fears of clashes between rival factions escalated after pro-government "red shirts" said they would begin their own rallies from Sunday in provinces neighboring Bangkok and in a northeastern stronghold, Udon Thani, where leaders said they expected 10,000 people by Monday.

Anti-government protesters wait behind a barricade after closing the road near Government Complex in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 12, 2014.Anti-government protesters wait behind a barricade after closing the road near Government Complex in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 12, 2014.
x
Anti-government protesters wait behind a barricade after closing the road near Government Complex in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 12, 2014.
Anti-government protesters wait behind a barricade after closing the road near Government Complex in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 12, 2014.
Ministers told a briefing on Sunday that 12,000 police would be deployed to maintain law and order in Bangkok, along with 8,000 soldiers at government offices.

"We don't want confrontation with the protesters... In some places we will let them into government buildings," Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.

"The government will let Suthep play the hero tomorrow… It will be his show," added Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung.

"There won't be a repeat of 2010 because the government will not use that strategy. There are no plans to use force," he said, referring to an army crackdown on Thaksin supporters that year when more than 90 died including police and soldiers.

Army intervention

The unrest since November has hurt tourism and further delayed huge infrastructure projects that had been expected to support the economy this year at a time when exports remain weak. Consumer confidence is at a two-year low.

Many believe the army could step in to break the political deadlock, especially if the protests turn more violent.

The army has staged or attempted 18 coups in 81 years of on-off democracy but has tried to remain neutral this time.

"I want to tell all sides they must not clash with each other ... We are all Thais and can live together despite our differences," army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Saturday.

Surapong said on Friday the U.S. embassy was alarmist to advise its citizens to get in two weeks' supply of food and water.

Some residents have been stocking up on food and other essentials, but retailers have not experienced the kind of panic buying seen, for example, during floods that threatened to overwhelm Bangkok in 2011.

City officials have told 140 schools to close on Monday and universities near the seven protest sites will suspend classes.

You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
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 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.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid