News / Asia

Thai Protests Abruptly Halt Ahead of King's Birthday

Thai Protesters Celebrate Truce Ahead of King's Birthdayi
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December 03, 2013
After days of intensifying protests in Thailand's capital, clashes abruptly ceased Tuesday as police took down barricades and allowed protesters onto the grounds of Government House and other fortified compounds. The apparent truce comes ahead of Thursday's 86th birthday of Thailand's revered monarch. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok reports that although the democratically elected prime minister remains in power, the opposition is jubilant.

Thai Protesters Celebrate Truce Ahead of King's Birthday

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— Following days of clashes in Bangkok, Thailand’s prime minister is calling for all segments of society, including protesters, to work together to find a solution to the upheaval in the politically polarized country. A key opposition leader, however, is vowing to continue the struggle to bring down the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The intensifying protests in Thailand's capital abruptly ceased Tuesday as police took down barricades and allowed protesters onto the grounds of Government House and other fortified compounds.
 
The apparent truce, ahead of Thursday's 86th birthday of Thailand's revered monarch, led to a scene hardly imaginable the previous day: a crowd of anti-government demonstrators sitting peacefully on the lawn of Government House, the seat of political power in Thailand.
 
Political Developments in Thailand

2006: Army overthrows Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra
2007: Pro-Thaksin People Power Party wins elections
2008: Anti-Thaksin protesters, known as Yellow Shirts, stage months of demonstrations, briefly paralyze airports. Abhisit Vejjajiva becomes prime minister.
2010: Massive pro-Thaksin "Red Shirt" protests held in Bangkok, dozens killed
2011: Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of Thaksin, elected prime minister
2013: Anti-government protesters hold massive street demonstrations
But just what has been achieved by the temporary occupation of the grounds puzzles supporters, such as Saidin Chaohinfah, who said she is not sure whether her side has won or lost. They'll have to wait and see. But she said she talked with the police and they are happy, as well.
 
Tuesday's festivities are no guarantee that this conflict is over.
 
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban celebrated the brief occupation of key government buildings, but admitted the goal of removing the Thaksin family from power remains incomplete.
 
At Government House, demonstrator Silapachai Nisapa noted the obvious: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is still leading Thailand’s government.
 
  • A woman poses on a downed barricade at the entrance to the government complex in Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A protester waves a Thai flag at the entrance of Government House after barricades were taken down, Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Anti-government protesters on the lawn of Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A medical team leaves the government complex in Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A drone flies above Government House capturing video of the crowd below, Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Fallen barricades on a bridge at the entrance to Government House in Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A vandalized police van on a Bangkok street, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Anti-government protesters stand on a loudspeaker truck in Bangkok, Dec. 3, 2013. (Steve Herman/VOA)

He said the prime minister has to stop performing her duties and resign because a lot of people came out in protest to call for that.

Yingluck Shinawatra

  •  Born June 21, 1967 in Chiang Mai
  • Younger sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra
  • Earned a Master's degree in Public Administration from Kentucky State University
  • Married to businessman Anusorn Amornchat; has one son
  • Served as managing director of AIS and SC Asset, both family companies
  • Became Thailand's first female prime minister in 2011
Yingluck swept to power in the 2011 elections with a strong majority. But some of her government's policies have aroused public ire, in particular a controversial amnesty bill that could have paved the way for the return of her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, has been living in self-imposed exile to avoid facing corruption charges. He is believed to play a key role in setting government policy and remains popular in rural areas.
 
The weeks of protests in the capital are the largest in Thailand since 2010, but many Thais and political observers saw the demonstrators' demands to replace the democratically-elected government with a “people's council” as unreasonable.
 
Following the protests, the prime minister's fate remains unclear. With much of Thailand anticipating Thursday's birthday celebrations for the King, who is considered the sole uniting figure in the country, the prime minister made a brief televised appeal for all people to come together and work for a solution.
 
Whatever the eventual political outcome, the turmoil seems certain to affect Thailand's economy. The finance ministry says the country’s growth rate may dip to three percent and its credit rating is also likely to fall.

Related video report by Steve Herman
Thailand Political Deadlock Continues As Protests Turn Violenti
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December 02, 2013
Thailand's prime minister says she is open to negotiations to defuse the country's political crisis, but remains unwilling to bow to her opponent's demands to turn over the government to an unelected council. VOA's Steve Herman reports from Bangkok, where Yingluck Shinawatra said the country's influential military will remain neutral in the standoff.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

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