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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora