News / Asia

Thai Protest Leader Says to Unblock Bangkok Roads, Still Target Ministries

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban addresses anti-government protesters at their encampment in central Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 28, 2014.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban addresses anti-government protesters at their encampment in central Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 28, 2014.
Reuters
— Anti-government protesters will clear their camps from main roads they have blockaded in the Thai capital since mid-January but step up efforts to oust the government by trying to shut down ministries, their leader said on Friday.

The protesters have been trying since November to push out Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and eradicate the political influence of her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, seen as the real power in Thailand.

But their numbers have dwindled and attacks on the various camps with grenades and guns have become an almost daily occurrence. Three people were killed when a grenade was thrown into a busy shopping area near one camp on Sunday.

“We will stop closing Bangkok and give every intersection back to Bangkokians. We will stop closing Bangkok from Monday,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told supporters on Friday. “But we will escalate our shutdown of government ministries and Shinawatra businesses.”

All his supporters are to move inside Lumpini Park in the heart of the capital, where many of them already sleep in tents. A government complex in the north of the city would remain under the control of an allied group, he said.

Sophon Pisutwong, a police commissioner with the body overseeing a state of emergency in Bangkok, said protesters had managed to shut 82 ministries or state agencies since November but, as of Friday, 63 had reopened, including the finance ministry.

Earlier on Friday, Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung rejected a proposal from Suthep 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,” Chalerm said.

“Suthep is only proposing negotiations, even though he dismissed them before, because protest numbers are dwindling.”

The crisis is hurting the economy, with confidence and domestic demand both down. Data on Friday showed factory output fell 6.41 percent in January from a year before.

In some good news for the government, China is to buy 400,000 tons of Thai rice, providing funds to help pay farmers who have been protesting because a state rice-buying program has run out of money.

On February 4, China scrapped a deal to buy 1.2 million tons of rice because of an investigation by the Thai anti-graft agency into various deals between Thailand and China.

On Thursday Yingluck was served with charges of negligence relating to the rice program. The case could eventually see her forced from office.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha, asked by reporters if recent violence would trigger a coup, remained noncommittal and expressed exasperation at the question being put to him time and again.

“We must not discuss this every day,” he said. “I can't promise whether there will be a coup or notn.”

Talk of a possible civil war has also picked up recently but Prayuth said he doubted that outcome. “We must control the situation using the law,” he said.

More voting on Sunday

The crisis broadly pits 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 says the 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.

Yingluck called an election for Feb. 2 to try to end the latest 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 have 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.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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 in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid