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 "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.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 "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.
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, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid