News / Asia

Thai Army Chief Calls for Restraint, Does Not Rule Out Coup

Anti-government protesters gather outside the house of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Bangkok December 26, 2013.
Anti-government protesters gather outside the house of Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra during a rally in Bangkok December 26, 2013.
Ron Corben
Thailand Army Chief General Prayuth Chan-ocah called Friday for restraint from both sides, and did not explicitly rule out the possibility of a military coup.
 
"The door to a coup is neither open nor closed," he said, adding that "anything can happen."
 
Prayuth reiterated a request that people stop asking the army to take sides in the bitter dispute and show restraint ahead of early elections set for February 2.
 
Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Friday he will ask the military for help securing candidate registrations that begin Saturday. The comments were made a day after clashes between police and anti-government protesters in Bangkok left one police officer dead and dozens injured.
 
In a televised address Thursday, the country's caretaker deputy prime minister, Pongthep Thepkanjana rejected a request from the election commission to postpone a February vote and said the general election would go ahead as planned.
 
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for the early vote as a way to end the political crisis. Protesters want the prime minister's removal, saying it is necessary to purge the country of corruption and money politics.
 
Opposition leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose Democrat Party is boycotting the February poll, says the military has called for a political resolution to the conflict.
 
"The military has tried to keep its role to a minimum," Vejjajiva said. "They have expressed clearly that political problems are to be sorted out through political organizations, not the military."

  • Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban (R) receives a donation from his supporters as he marches during a rally, Bangkok, Thailand, January 5, 2014.
  • Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban receives donations from supporters during a rally, Bangkok, Thailand, January 5, 2014.
  • Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban (C) pays his respects at the monument of King Rama I during a rally, Bangkok, Thailand, January 5, 2014.
  • Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban (C) waves to supporters as he marches during a rally, Bangkok, Thailand, January 5, 2014.
  • Large numbers of anti-government protesters attend a rally, Bangkok, Thailand, January 5, 2014.
  • A man shields himself as riot police shoot water cannon at anti-government protesters at a gymnasium in Bangkok, Dec. 26, 2013.
  • Anti-government protesters construct a barrier made of sand bags during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 29, 2013.
  • A motorcyclist rides past barricades constructed by anti-government protesters during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 29, 2013.
  • An anti-government protester walks past pictures taken during clashes with riot policemen during a rally outside the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 29, 2013.
  • A Thai security officer is seen through a shattered windscreen of a destroyed police truck at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok, Thailand, Dec. 27, 2013.
  • Riot police run after anti-government protesters trying to enter the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok, Dec. 26, 2013.
  • Police officers escort election commission officials to a helicopter at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok, Dec. 26, 2013.
Bangkok has faced weeks of anti-government protests led by ex-Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who is calling for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's resignation. The latest rallies have drawn tens of thousands, triggered by government legislation that calls for blanket amnesty that is seen as favoring her exiled older brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a key figure behind the governing Pheu Thai Party who has stayed abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption.
 
The opposition, which views Yingluck as a puppet of her brother, accuses the sitting prime minister of parliamentary abuses and is demanding political reforms before fresh elections are held.
 
But Yingluck says her government will press on with the vote and has put forward a plan for political reform to be set in place after the election. On Wednesday, she proposed the creation of an independent national reform council that would work alongside the new government, but protesters immediately rejected the proposal, saying reforms should be undertaken before any vote.
 
The main opposition Democrat Party has said it will boycott the election, which the prime minister's Pheu Thai Party is predicted to win.
 
As parties and candidates began registering for the vote earlier this week, protests escalated.
 
According to Chris Baker, a Bangkok-based expert on Thai politics, the anti-government movement risks alienating its support base.
 
"What seems to be happening is that as the Suthep mob [has] become more violent and more destructive and more extreme," he said. "They are losing quite a lot of middle ground support. I suspect the policy of the government is to have some patience for a little bit longer because there are signs that his movement is self-destructing."
 
Yingluck and her brother have the support of Thailand's rural poor, largely because of Thaksin's policies to bring virtually free health care, cheap loans and other benefits to the long-neglected countryside.
 
But those same policies are disliked by an urban middle class and more educated elite.
 
Sunai Phasuk, a senior researcher with the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, says he fears that the largely rural government supporters may launch counter-rallies against Suthep's movement.
 
"Thailand is entering a period of brinkmanship — one of the worst in modern history, [wherein] Suthep and his supporters claim to be the great masses, but they are only a fraction of the entire population," he said. "We don't know the people who voted for Thaksin's side last time — how they would react to Suthep's side, how long they can be patient from reacting to Suthep's side. That is worrying."
 
In a bid to avoid further violence, the election commissions announced relocated registration venues on Friday. But commissioners say they will decide by January 2 whether they will resign over fears of violence in the lead-up to the poll.
 
Media reports Friday quote senior government members indicating there is support for military intervention to prevent the fall of the government.
 
Former Prime Minister Thaksin, a billionaire businessman, was ousted in a 2006 military coup.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid