News / Asia

Thai Police Back Down After Move to Disperse Protests

Anti-government protesters gesture from a barricade where they confront riot policemen near the Government House in central Bangkok, Feb. 14, 2014.
Anti-government protesters gesture from a barricade where they confront riot policemen near the Government House in central Bangkok, Feb. 14, 2014.
Ron Corben
Thai police moved to disperse anti-government protesters occupying key areas of Bangkok only to retreat amid fears of potential violence. Anti-government protesters are likely to be joined by hundreds of rice farmers complaining about delayed payments in a rice price support scheme.
 
Some 5,000 police with shields at the ready began their operation early Friday to disperse anti-government protesters occupying areas of Bangkok since late last year in a bid to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign.
 
The anti-government People's Democratic Reform Council campaign stepped up its activities in mid-January by blocking key intersections and occupying key government buildings.
 
In response, Yingluck's administration imposed a 60-day state of emergency across the city and nearby provinces.
 
Friday's police operation came as Thailand marked a Buddhist holiday, leaving many protest sites with few on hand as people visited temples. 
 
There were no serious outbreaks of violence, but police retreated from a government administrative center about 25 kilometers from central Bangkok when protesters led by a Buddhist monk blocked their path.
 
Since protests began last year, at least 10 people have died and hundreds injured.
  
Panitan Wattanaygorn, a political scientist and former government spokesman, said a decision to move against the sites appeared designed to take advantage of fewer numbers and came ahead of a civil court decision on the validity of the emergency decree due on Wednesday.
 
"The government and the police are concerned if the [civil] court give a verdict to ban the use of the emergency decree, the operations would be more difficult. But now they have retreated they are afraid of the political consequences as these protesters may regroup and try to challenge [the police]," said Panitan.
 
Thailand's political landscape remains highly uncertain, despite national polls held on February 2. The polls were boycotted by the opposition and face legal challenges.
 
Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party-led government has faced on-going protests since her government sought to pass an amnesty bill last year analysts say was aimed to clear her older brother, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, of corruption charges.
 
The protests escalated into calls for the government to resign.
 
Added pressure has come from hundreds of rice farmers rallying in Bangkok, angered over long delays in payment over a controversial rice pledging scheme.
 
Speaking to Thai media, one woman wept as she pleaded for the government to find outstanding funds, asking how she was going to feed her children, begging for sympathy and saying that the government needed to recognize their problem.
 
The populist rice price program faces widespread allegations of corruption, and Yingluck is also under investigation in connection with the more than $19 billion in losses run up by the program so far.
 
Anti-government protesters launched a campaign to assist the farmers in raising funds to support legal action the farmers will take against the government.
 
PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said political pressures are still on the prime minister.    
 
"I question her perseverance in this scheme. I think she's still human -- if we keep on the pressure in the end its only a matter of time before she decides to resign -- but you have to keep on the pressure," said Akanat.
 
Yingluck said that any delays are legal issues and called for farmers to have patience with the government
 
Besides calling for the prime minister and Cabinet to resign, the PDRC is seeking political reforms before fresh elections are held. Political analysts say talks to end the deadlock have been under way.
 
On Friday, Yingluck promised farmers they could expect outstanding payments next week.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs