News / Asia

Bangkok Braces for Renewed Conflict

An anti-government protester waves a national flag in front of riot police officers and soldiers guarding the entrance of the National Broadcast Services of Thailand (NBT) television station in Bangkok, May 9, 2014.
An anti-government protester waves a national flag in front of riot police officers and soldiers guarding the entrance of the National Broadcast Services of Thailand (NBT) television station in Bangkok, May 9, 2014.
Ron Corben
Thailand’s anti-government protesters celebrated the court-ordered removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra this week and returned to the capital Friday in a campaign to force the entire government to resign.

In downtown Bangkok, where many are bracing for violence as pro-government supporters prepare to rally on Saturday, anti-government protesters blocked several key roads as they celebrated Yingluck's departure.

Earlier in the day, Thai riot police used tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-government protesters who took to the streets following Wednesday's Thai Constitutional Court ruling to remove Yingluck and nine of her cabinet members from power. Thailand's Anti-Corruption Commission added to Yingluck's woes on Thursday, ruling that there is enough evidence to indict Yingluck in a controversial rice subsidy program that her critics say was riddled with corruption and wasted billions of dollars.
 
  • Anti-government protesters react as their leader arrives at Thailand's parliament building during the senate session in Bangkok, May 12, 2014.
  • Newly elected Senate Speaker Surachai Liengboonlertchai (right) and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greet each other in parliament, Bangkok. May 12, 2014.
  • Emboldened by the removal of Thailand's prime minister, anti-government protesters withdrew from Bangkok's main park and marched to the vacated prime minister's office compound seen here, where protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has pledged to set up office, Bangkok, May 12, 2014.
  • Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, center, talks on his mobile phone during a rally outside the parliament building, in Bangkok, May 12, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester waves a national flag in front of riot police officers and soldiers guarding the entrance of the National Broadcast Services of Thailand (NBT) television station, in Bangkok, May 9, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters step on a poster of ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra outside the National Broadcast Services of Thailand (NBT) television station, in Bangkok, May 9, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters watch as an injured man is taken away from a clash site at a police compound, in the north of Bangkok, May 9, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters are singing as they ride on a truck during a rally. A court ousted Thailand's prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra for abuse of power, handing the anti-government demonstrators a victory for their efforts the past six months, in Bangkok, May 8, 2014.
  • Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban greets supporters during a rally, in Bangkok, Thailand, May 8, 2014.
  • Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets her supporters as she leaves the Permanent Secretary of Defence office in Bangkok, May 7, 2014.
  • Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, 66, was quickly appointed the new acting leader after Prime Minsiter Yiungluck Shinawatra was ordered to step down by a May 7, 2014 court ruling, in Bangkok.

The case will now proceed to the Senate, where Yingluck will face an impeachment vote that could see her receive a five-year ban from politics. She has been replaced as caretaker prime minister by Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who is a close ally of Yingluck and her influential brother, ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The rulings send Thailand deeper into a prolonged political deadlock that pits the mostly rural and poor supporters of Thaksin and Yingluck against the mostly middle class opposition, many of whom are not satisfied with Yingluck's departure alone, since much of her government remains in place. They called for a "final offensive" in the form of Friday's mass protest.

Speaking to supporters in a city park on Friday, opposition protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban urged supporters to rally outside parliament, the prime minister's offices and five television stations, to prevent them from being used by the government.

Lhienthong Thisopha, a 72-year-old retired army officer, says he supports the rallies to end the influence of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin, a billionaire and divisive figure in Thai politics whose parties have won every national election since 2001.

"Even though Ms. Yingluck has been forced from office, the remainder of the government remains, much like a tree," Lhienthong said.

Protesters are still pressing to replace the government with an unelected council that would put in place far-reaching political reforms before the next election, now scheduled for July.

Samarn Lertwongrath, a senior member of the governing Pheu Thai Party member, says even if protesters delay the July vote, elections are likely before the end of the year because of the toll the standoff is taking on the economy.

"I myself believe that maybe they will prolong the election," Samarn said. "But anyhow, there has to be an election within a year — they have no choice because all the businessmen have to push everything to solve the problem and [anti-government protest leader] Suthep Thaugsuban must be responsible for the bad situation in the economy."

Thailand’s economy has faltered since the protests began late last year. The economy grew about 2.9 percent in 2013, but could be worse this year with falling tourist arrivals, an expensive and controversial rice purchasing plan, and reluctance from foreign investors to expand at a time of uncertainty.

According to Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, the unfolding political circumstances complicate any prevailing economic projections.

"Maybe this year the Thai economy will grow about zero to 2 percent, depending on the political situation," Thanavath said. "Maybe if Red Shirt and Yellow shirt - if we have something [that] gets into a violent situation - it's not good for the Thai economy, for Thai people and businessmen. [It] will slow down their activity and they don't want to invest anything. So it's quite hard to predict."

Thai military and police are reported to be stepping up efforts to prevent outbreaks of violence as pro-government supporters threaten to descend on Bangkok in coming days.

Thai police say a grenade was thrown early Thursday at the home of one of the judges of the country's Constitutional Court.
 
Police say no one was injured in the early morning attack, though the grenade did cause minor damage to a roof and a vehicle at the judge's Bangkok home. A bank and hospital were also damaged by grenades overnight.
 
Thailand's power struggle over the past six months has already claimed the lives of more than 20 people and left dozens injured.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Petroinous from: Bangkok
May 09, 2014 10:39 AM
These Emerging Asian countries Thailand and India etc are all headed towards anarchy, and perhaps, blood shed in their inexorable quest to seize political power, hook or crook, and loot the country. Only after they have perpetrated enough mayhem and forced the ordinary citizen to go through hell will these self-serving politicians will realize their folly, if they ever will. Nations like Egypt and Libya which clamored for democracy have shown the world what kind of democracy they were talking about.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deali
X
July 07, 2015 12:02 PM
If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs