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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid