News / Asia

Thai Government Supporters Plan Rally

Workers prepare lighting and sound stands for a rally by pro-government "red shirt" supporters in Nakorn Pathorn province, west of Bangkok, April 4, 2014.
Workers prepare lighting and sound stands for a rally by pro-government "red shirt" supporters in Nakorn Pathorn province, west of Bangkok, April 4, 2014.
Ron Corben
Thailand’s embattled prime minister is facing new legal challenges that could force her from office. With no end in sight to the country’s months-long political deadlock, government supporters are planning a massive rally on the outskirts of the capital.

Since November, Thailand has been engulfed in political turmoil driven by anti-government protesters who have called for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign over allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

 
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (R) checks a list of voters' names before voting at a polling station in Bangkok, March 30, 2014.Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (R) checks a list of voters' names before voting at a polling station in Bangkok, March 30, 2014.
x
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (R) checks a list of voters' names before voting at a polling station in Bangkok, March 30, 2014.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (R) checks a list of voters' names before voting at a polling station in Bangkok, March 30, 2014.
A February election failed to resolve the impasse. Protesters blocked voting in parts of Bangkok and elsewhere, saying that before holding elections, the country needs to be ruled by an unelected council that will implement political reforms. Courts have since ruled the February election invalid.
 
The prime minister's opponents have filed several court cases that could force her from office. In response, her party’s political base, led by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship or UDD, also known as Red Shirts, is planning a massive show of public support.
 
Tida Tawornseth, a senior UDD leader, says the weekend rally aims to "protect democracy."
 
"We still want to show the number of people and the feeling of the people who want to protect democracy. So we need a need a big number," she said. "I think maybe 400,000 to 500,000 to show the number of people and the feeling. We want to check the system, check the core leader at every level."

 
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is helped in a wheelchair as she arrives at the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, March 31, 2014.Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is helped in a wheelchair as she arrives at the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, March 31, 2014.
x
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is helped in a wheelchair as she arrives at the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, March 31, 2014.
Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is helped in a wheelchair as she arrives at the National Anti-Corruption Commission office in Nonthaburi province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, March 31, 2014.
The court challenges could force Yingluck from office in the coming weeks. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has charged the prime minister with negligence in overseeing a controversial rice price pledging scheme that analysts say was riddled with corruption.
 
In the past week the constitutional court accepted a petition against the Prime Minister over the transfer of a senior National Security Council official in 2011. An administrative court had earlier ruled the transfer unlawful. If the court finds against the Prime Minister she and her cabinet may be forced to resign.

If the Cabinet resigns the head of the senate can call for appointment of a neutral prime minister to oversee fresh elections. But red shirt leaders says such moves will be resisted.
 
Deep political divisions

Thailand's political divisions now run deep. The anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) or "yellow shirts" draw support from urban middle class and southern provinces.
 
The Pheu Thai and its red shirt backers are largely in the north and northeast regions - from farmers to urban centers and including the poor, attracted by the party's populist policies under former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption.   

 
Anti-government protesters blow whistles as hundreds follow their leader Suthep Thaugsuban (not pictured) protesting at the Teachers Council of Thailand in central Bangkok, April 4, 2014.Anti-government protesters blow whistles as hundreds follow their leader Suthep Thaugsuban (not pictured) protesting at the Teachers Council of Thailand in central Bangkok, April 4, 2014.
x
Anti-government protesters blow whistles as hundreds follow their leader Suthep Thaugsuban (not pictured) protesting at the Teachers Council of Thailand in central Bangkok, April 4, 2014.
Anti-government protesters blow whistles as hundreds follow their leader Suthep Thaugsuban (not pictured) protesting at the Teachers Council of Thailand in central Bangkok, April 4, 2014.
​A stand-off has remained despite mediation efforts by academics, business and other groups. Now, with the judicial decisions pending, tensions again are growing.
 
The political violence, the worst since 2010 when 92 pro-Thaksin protesters and military died, has already led to the deaths of 24 people, including children.   
 
Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of the Democrat Party and former senator, says as both sides appear unwilling to compromise, confrontation appears inevitable.
 
"If the red shirts would mobilize and come into the city and face-off with existing protesters of the PDRC it's inevitable it seems. I do have the feeling that the ruling of the constitutional court over the removal of the director of the National Security Council will have a special effect on the politics. The pro-government supporters would most likely confront the court like they have been doing in the past firing M79 [grenades] and all sorts of explosives at different courts," said  
Kraisak Choonhavan.
 
Rally goers on Saturday have pledged not to resort to violence. They are expected to remain far from the downtown area, reducing the chance for clashes with anti-government demonstrators based in the city center. But observers worry that both pro- and anti-government militias have already stockpiled weapons in anticipation of violence.
 
Fear of violence

Despite pledges from leaders of both sides to remain peaceful, many including UDD core leader, Tida Tawornseth, are pessimistic.
 
"I think maybe it's very difficult for this country to avoid violent action. Very difficult. But for us we try the best to avoid violent we try to avoid confrontation with the PDRC just only to show the strong intention and the number of people," she said.
 
Chris Baker, an author and commentator on Thai politics, says once extreme views on both sides are set aside, negotiations may be possible.
 
"You have on one side, the red side, saying we want to preserve the principle of elections because that's the way we think we can get change," he said. "On the other "yellow side" - [after] removing the crazies - is saying yes we want better controls on the parliament and on 'majoritarian' governments so they don't  go off and do corrupt and nasty and silly things. There's obviously room for negotiation there on how you achieve both a reasonable compromise."

Thailand’s military has launched 18 coups or coup attempts since the 1930s, but has largely stayed out of the current conflict. This week the army chief repeated that the armed forces would not take sides.  Thailand’s military is deploying about six thousand troops in Bangkok this weekend to prevent clashes.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid