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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid