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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs