News / Asia

    Thailand May Extend State of Emergency Despite Scaled-back Protest

    FILE - A pro-government supporter passes t-shirts with portraits of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her self-exiled brother Thaksin at the gate of the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.
    FILE - A pro-government supporter passes t-shirts with portraits of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her self-exiled brother Thaksin at the gate of the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.
    Reuters
    A state of emergency in Bangkok could be extended until anti-government protests end completely, Thailand's foreign minister said on Tuesday, adding that he feared more violence even though the protests had subsided.
          
    Protests aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra are in their fifth month, but over the weekend the remaining protesters closed down several big protest sites and moved to a central Bangkok park.
     
    “If Suthep continues with his protest and there are more violent incidents, including grenades thrown, shootings and acts of violence by provocateurs, the emergency law will have to stay until the situation improves,” Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul told reporters.
          
    The protests are led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister in a government led by the Democrat Party, now the main opposition party.
     
    “We will wait for security forces, the army and the cabinet to decide before the emergency expires on March 22,” Surapong said.
     
    The government imposed the 60-day emergency in Bangkok on January 21 to prevent an escalation of the protests ahead of a general election on February 2, which nevertheless was disrupted.
     
    The demonstrations are the latest chapter in a conflict that has gripped Thailand for eight years and broadly pits Bangkok's middle class, southern Thais and the royalist establishment against mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
     
    The protests began in November with attempts to occupy government buildings and spread in January when major roads in the capital were blocked. Those roads reopened on Monday after the protesters withdrew and regrouped in Lumpini Park.
     
    The protesters have lost faith in elections, which parties of the populist Thaksin keep on winning, and want to reform the political system to end the influence of the former telecoms tycoon who they accuse of being a corrupt crony capitalist.
     
    Thaksin has lived abroad since 2008 to avoid a jail term for a graft conviction he says was politically motivated.
     
    Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobumrung, who is in charge of enforcing the state of emergency, said the protests were unlikely to end soon and the demonstrators were banking on intervention by courts widely seen as hostile to Yingluck to bring down her government.
     
    “The protests will go on for a while because Suthep has not reached his target... but I don't believe he can reach his goal so demonstrators are waiting for some sort of intervention by independent organizations,” Chalerm told reporters.
     
    Ready to mobilize
          
    Yingluck faces several legal challenges, the most immediate threat coming from charges of negligence relating to a disastrous rice subsidy scheme that has run out of funds, prompting unpaid farmers to demonstrate in Bangkok.
     
    She has been given until March 14 by the National Anti-Corruption Commission to defend herself. It will then decide whether there is a case to pursue and, if it goes ahead, she may be forced to step down.
     
    Under emergency rule, public gatherings of more than five people are banned and security forces have the right to detain suspects for more 30 days without charge, but a court ruling last month limited the state's powers to disperse protesters.
     
    Representatives from business organizations, including the Stock Exchange of Thailand and the Tourism Council of Thailand, have urged the government to reconsider the emergency law, saying it had affected tourism and other sectors.
     
    At least 23 people have been killed in the unrest since November 30, including four children in Bangkok and the eastern province of Trat. Hundreds of people have been injured.
     
    The violence is the worst since 2010 when Suthep, at the time a deputy prime minister, sent in troops to end demonstrations by pro-Thaksin “red shirt” activists.
     
    Suthep faces murder charges related to his role in that crackdown, when more than 90 people were killed.
     
    Thaksin's supporters, largely based in the north and northeast, have threatened to defend Yingluck if she is removed from power, adding to fears of civil strife.
     
    Thanawut Wichaidit, a spokesman for the red shirts' United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, said the group had practiced over the weekend how to mobilize people in the northeast to get down to Bangkok.
     
    “We rehearsed how to move large groups from one city to another to warn anti-government forces not to do anything that destroys democracy. The elite have killed red shirts like pigs and dogs in the past and we'll make sure they never do that again,” he told Reuters.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora