World News

Thai Protest Leader Calls for End to Street Rallies

An anti-government protester volunteers to clean graffiti debris from the main gate of the Royal Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, March 1, 2014.
An anti-government protester volunteers to clean graffiti debris from the main gate of the Royal Thai Police Headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, March 1, 2014.
Ron Corben
In a marked shift in Thailand's ongoing political conflict, the leaders overseeing protests have called for an end to street rallies in central Bangkok. The move could open the way for talks to end the crisis. The decision follows increasing attacks on rally sites and a call from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for full investigation into recent violence .

Protest leader and former lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban called for an end to protests that have shut down key centers of central Bangkok since mid-January in a campaign to force Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office.

The move, which could see the reopening of main roads by Monday, is set to ease mounting political tensions that have fueled growing violence beyond Bangkok to provincial areas.

The toll from the protests, that began in November, is hundreds injured and more than 20 lives, including four small children, whose families were not involved in the protests, but who perished when gunmen fired on rally sites in Rayong and Bangkok.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement, called for Thai authorities to investigate the attacks and bring to justice those responsible. Kerry said the children's deaths had been particularly horrifying.

Anti-government protesters' tents are set up inside Bangkok's Lumpini Park, Thailand, March 1, 2014.Anti-government protesters' tents are set up inside Bangkok's Lumpini Park, Thailand, March 1, 2014.
x
Anti-government protesters' tents are set up inside Bangkok's Lumpini Park, Thailand, March 1, 2014.
Anti-government protesters' tents are set up inside Bangkok's Lumpini Park, Thailand, March 1, 2014.
Kraisak Choonhavan, from the opposition Democrat Party of which Suthep was also a member, said the time to end the street protests was appropriate because they failed to force Yingluck from office.

"The most important thing is the fact that the protests are not going to resolve anything if it keeps on the way it is; you know, spread out with four or five stages spending as if there is no tomorrow on entertainment and yet getting hit on a nightly basis with gunmen. So you have to try different things," said Kraisak.

A police spokesman said the protests had led to 82 ministries or state agencies being closed since November, but by last Friday 63 had managed to reopen including the finance ministry. But Suthep said the protests would still target ministries.

The protests were launched after Yingluck's government passed a controversial amnesty bill seen to benefit her older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption. But critics say Thaksin is seen as the main influence in Thailand. 

Yingluck is also under investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for her role as chairperson of a rice committee overseeing a multi-billion-dollar rice price support scheme critics say was engulfed by corruption.

Economist Somphob Manarangsan said Suthep has decided to look to the commission and other verdicts to decide the fate of the government.

"Now they are waiting for the independent organizations to settle the cases more peacefully and have the independent organization settle the case by law that is the reason for the Suthep group who see no reason to persist with the shut down [of Bangkok]," said Somphob.

The end of street rallies comes against growing concerns from the banking and business sector over the wider impact on the Thai economy, with investor confidence and domestic demand both sharply lower in recent weeks.

There were also growing fears of pro-government groups and militia being organized that may have led to an escalation of attacks on the anti-government protest sites in Bangkok.

But Thailand's political outlook remains unclear and is still without a sitting parliament after inconclusive February 2 elections boycotted by the Democrat Party and disrupted by protesters.  Analysts say holding new elections is a key element in talks to end the crisis.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
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 Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs