News / Asia

Thai Government Supporters Plan Rally

Workers prepare lighting and sound stands for a rally by pro-government
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

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs