World News

Thai Opposition Open to Talks with PM

Thai opposition leader Suthep Thaugsuban has signaled he is open to talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, after weeks of rejecting any form of dialogue to end a prolonged political crisis.

The flamboyant opposition leader, who has led months of anti-government protests, on Thursday challenged Ms. Yingluck to a live televised debate, as long as they are the only two participants and the debate is televised nationwide.

Ms. Yingluck said while she is open to negotiations, Suthep must first end the protests. She also said any talks must fit within the framework of the constitution. She spoke from northern Thailand, where she is spending several days with her support base.

On Thursday, Thailand's National Anti-Corruption Commission heard negligence charges against the embattled prime minister. She did not attend the hearing, but instead sent a legal representative.

Ms. Yingluck is charged with ignoring corruption within a government rice subsidy program that has cost the government billions of dollars.



Outside the commission, one of her lawyers, Norawit Laolang, defended the rice-buying program.



"Prime Minister (Yingluck) is willing to cooperate with the National Anti-Corruption Commission. She is willing to give information and evidences to the NACC because the PM is confident in her honesty. The rice-pledging scheme has benefited the farmers."



Hundreds of her supporters gathered outside the agency, threatening to block commissioners from entering and forcing the hearing to be held elsewhere.

If found guilty, the prime minister could face an impeachment vote, a five-year ban from politics, or even criminal charges.

Supporters of Ms. Yingluck dismiss the charges as an attempted "judicial coup" by the opposition, which has staged months of protests.

Since November, at least 22 people have died, mostly during attacks on the anti-government protesters, known as Yellow Shirts.

Some fear an escalation of violence if government supporters, known as Red Shirts, also protest in large numbers, as they have promised.

Also unclear is the role of Thailand's military, which overthrew Ms. Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006.

Mr. Thaksin still has immense influence in Thailand, but the billionaire businessman is now living in exile after being accused of corruption.

Opposition protesters say Mr. Thaksin is secretly controlling her sister's government, which they say is hopelessly corrupt.

Much of the attention has been focused on the government rice subsidy program, which helped sweep the Pheu Thai party to power in 2011.

Under the program, the government purchased rice from Thai farmers for above market prices. The government is now stuck with large stockpiles of rice it has been unable to sell.

The opposition says it is wasteful and reflective of the populist policies that have given Mr. Thaksin a stranglehold on Thailand politics.

They are calling for Ms. Yingluck to step aside and be replace by an unelected people's council that would implement political reforms.

The government tried to resolve the standoff with early elections in February, but the opposition boycotted the vote and disrupted it in several areas, preventing a definitive result.

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said it was concerned with Thailand's unrest, saying violence is not an acceptable way of resolving political differences and calling for all attackers to be brought to justice.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs