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

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
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.

VOA Blogs