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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid