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

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid