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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs