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

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees 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.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More