News / Asia

Thai Caretaker PM: Elections First, Then Reforms

Thailand's interim prime minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan gestures during a news conference at the Permanent Secretary of Defence in Bangkok, May 12, 2014.
Thailand's interim prime minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan gestures during a news conference at the Permanent Secretary of Defence in Bangkok, May 12, 2014.
Demonstrators trying to bring down Thailand’s beleaguered government left behind their encampment in a Bangkok park and set up a new base near the traditional seat of government on Monday. But the caretaker prime minister, speaking to reporters for the first time in his new role, insists elections remain the best way forward.
 
Protesters set out from Lumpini Park Monday in a now familiar march through the city, making their way to a new camp near the United Nations main office, the Army headquarters and the Government House compound.
 
Ministers of the weakened government are nowhere near the primary government complex, which has not been used by it for months amid large protests.

The interim prime minister is working out of an office in a distant suburb.
 
Caretaker PM addresses media

Niwatthamrong Boongsongpaisan, who assumed office last week, was asked by foreign correspondents Monday why authorities are not moving against those leading the anti-government movement.
 
“We don’t want violence to happen. We don’t want any killings. We don’t want to hurt anybody,” he said.
 
The caretaker leader insists that “by law we are legitimate to stay on until we have the new elected government.”
 
Niwatthamrong expressed hope that a meeting between the caretaker government and the election commission, scheduled for Wednesday, would agree on a July 20 date for nationwide polling.
 
But the main opposition Democrat Party has no given no indication that it will participate.

 
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, left, poses for a photograph with a supporter during a rally, May 8, 2014 in Bangkok.Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, left, poses for a photograph with a supporter during a rally, May 8, 2014 in Bangkok.
x
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, left, poses for a photograph with a supporter during a rally, May 8, 2014 in Bangkok.
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, left, poses for a photograph with a supporter during a rally, May 8, 2014 in Bangkok.
Protest leader Suthep Taugsuban has rejected the appointment of the caretaker and had called for the Senate, along with judges and the election commission to appoint a new one. But there appeared to be little support for the proposal among the judiciary.
 
A spokesperson for the protesters, Akanat Promphan, contends the group’s plan is the only way to resolve the impasse.
 
“We’re just hoping that those that have the power - for example the Senate - will come together with the people and try to find a quick solution by establishing a new functioning government that will be able and have the pose to resolve all the problems and also push forward reform,” said Akanat Promphan.
 
Demonstrators' plan rejected


The Center for the Administration of Peace and Order, known as CAPO, a combined force of police and soldiers, rejects the plan, saying the country already has a caretaker prime minister.  
 
CAPO spokesperson Sirima Sunawin says trying to invoke Article 7 of the Thai constitution in this manner is not only misleading the public.
 
“Their demand is not only illegal, but also intensify conflicts among groups in the society which may lead to violence, confrontation and even a civil war,” said Sirima Sunawin.
 
When reporters asked interim prime minister Niwattamrong if the county could split apart, he replied, “I don’t think we’ll have civil war.”

 
Members of the pro-government Members of the pro-government "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.
x
Members of the pro-government
Members of the pro-government "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.
About 15 kilometers away from the occupied Government House grounds, pro-government “red shirt” supporters are also rallying.
 
The distance has meant, so far, there have been no clashes between the rival groups.

Army in "wait-and-see" mode

There is widespread anticipation that any violence between the two could lead to intervention by Thailand’s powerful and respected military.
 
The army has launched 18 coup attempts since the early 1930s.
 
Generals, in recent weeks, have insisted another coup is not the solution to the country’s political infighting. The army chief, Prayuth Chan-ocha was quoted on Saturday saying that any action by soldiers would only come as a “last resort.”

That comment came a day after a key figure in the “yellow shirts” street protests that led to a 2006 coup, Sondhi Limthongkul, told a street rally “a coup is not always a bad thing if it changes the nation for the better.”

 
FILE - Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012.FILE - Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012.
x
FILE - Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012.
FILE - Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra greets the media upon his arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport in Cambodia, April 14, 2012.
The roots of the current trouble go back to 2006 when street demonstrations led to the military removing prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The telecommunications tycoon turned politician still enjoys broad support in Thailand’s agrarian north. Many urban elites fiercely oppose him and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, elected prime minister in 2011.

She was forced out of office by a court decision last week which her supporters regard as a “judicial coup.” They also contend that Niwattamrong, as a former executive of a now defunct TV station owned by Thaksin, is influenced by the ex-prime minister.

The ongoing political crisis in the kingdom is prompting concern domestically and abroad about the country’s long-term stability.

Foreign ministers, at a summit in Naypyitaw of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Sunday, called for Thailand to resolve its political troubles through talks by respecting democratic principles and the rule of law.

Thailand was the only ASEAN country not represented by its government’s leader at the summit.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

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