News / Asia

Civil Court Issues Mixed Verdict on Thailand’s State of Emergency

Thai Protests Continue as Tensions, Violence Mounti
X
February 19, 2014 8:16 AM
Thai opposition protesters are stepping up their campaign against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, after clashes with police left five dead a day earlier.

Watch related video from VOA

— A civil court Wednesday upheld the Thai government’s emergency decree, which allowed authorities to detain protestors and hold them for a month without charges. But the judges warned the government against using the state of emergency as a pretext to use force against anti-government demonstrators.

The government declared a 60-day emergency period from January 21 amid continuing protests against it.  

It is not immediately clear what impact the court’s ruling will have on arrest warrants issued for protest leaders accused of violating the state of emergency.

Protests against Thai government continue

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, at the helm since her Peau Thai Party won a landslide election in 2011, has been struggling to hold onto power since opponents in November began street protests to oust her.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an associate professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, said the court ruling will further tighten the noose, put the squeeze on the Yingluck government because the government is facing protests that demand Yingluck’s resignation.

"If the government is unable to resort to some kind of imposition of the law and order then they will look weaker and weaker," he said.  "And it will be in a straightjacket like a sitting duck and something else will come along to either depose it or see Yingluck’s resignation.”

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee was on the march again Wednesday, a day after a daylight clash with riot police along a major Bangkok avenue left at least five people dead and dozens injured.

The PDRC and its allied “yellow shirt” mass movement have taken over several major intersections and parks and surrounded some key ministries in their bid to force Ms. Yingluck from office. She remained on as caretaker prime minister since dissolving parliament in December.

Thailand's parliament cannot convene

Those forces allied against her - along with the opposition Democrat Party - boycotted the subsequent election earlier this month. And they prevented millions of people from voting, meaning not enough seats could be filled to convene a new parliament to vote for a successor prime minister. It is unclear when voting will be held in the approximately eleven percent of the electoral districts that were affected.  
 
PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban contends the electoral system is rigged in favor of the Peau Thai because of significant spending of public funds in the mostly poor Isaan region in the northeast, a stronghold for the party. He has repeatedly rejected calls to negotiate a compromise to end the stalemate.

Suthep, backed by the minority urban elite and those in the southern part of the country, wants to appoint an unelected people’s council to run the government for an indefinite period of time in order to cleanse a corrupt system. He has repeatedly ridiculed Yingluck and challenged her elder brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, to return from self-imposed exile to confront him. Thaksin faces prison for a corruption conviction should he return.

Suthep, along with former prime minister Abhisit Vejijajiva, faces indictment for murder charges stemming from the 2010 crackdown on "redshirts," who form the core of support for the current government.

Suthep was deputy prime minister at the time and oversaw a special security force, implicated in the deaths of more than 90 people during street violence.

Support for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra May be Dropping

Until recently, Yingluck and Thaksin could depend on the critical support of the "red shirts," who have mainly stayed on the sidelines in the northern countryside during the recent upheaval.

But their enthusiasm for the billionaire brother and his sister is waning after the government bungled a rice-pledging scheme. The majority of farmers have not been paid for their crops.

Inter-bank lending this week to fund payments for the farmers has led to a massive net withdrawal of deposits at branches of the Government Savings Bank by concerned customers.

The bank’s president has offered his resignation to take responsibility for lending five billion baht (about $154 million) to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives.

Some farmers on Wednesday blocked access to the Commerce Ministry, demanding Ms. Yingluck’s resignation.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday ordered the prime minister to answer charges February 27th of dereliction of duty. The commission contends Ms. Yingluck was aware of corruption involving the rice scheme but failed to stop it.

Shortly before the NACC made its announcement, the prime minister appeared on television to defend the scheme, apologizing to farmers. She said they “are being taken hostage in an unfortunate episode by anti-government groups whose campaign makes it impossible” for the rice-pledging to run efficiently.

Many analysts believe her days in office are numbered.

“Staying in office we will see a prolonged crisis and confrontation in the streets," said Professor Thitinan. "We can see now that Bangkok is completely disrupted in terms of commute and transportation. It’s causing a lot of disruption in peoples’ ordinary lives. So this situation is untenable.”

Protesters keep pressure on prime minister

Anti-government protestors Wednesday gathered outside a defense ministry building in Bangkok where the embattled prime minister has moved her office.

Suthep, speaking at the location, vowed that Ms. Yingluck could no longer use the premises “as her hiding place and her office.”

His supporters will not stop, he vowed, “wherever she sleeps, we will go after her.”

Suthep speaks to demonstrators at length at protest sites scattered throughout the capital nearly every day, frequently declaring the next big rally is the “final” one to force out Ms. Yingluck.

In his latest public remarks he called for a boycott against companies and products linked to Thaksin, whom he says is still trying to run the country via telephones from Dubai.

Yingluck stays on the move

A military official said Yingluck and her Cabinet ministers did not show up at the temporary office in avoid escalating tensions. At times, recently, she has appeared to have run the government from an air force base on the outskirts of the capital.

The powerful Thai military has yet to demonstrate any significant moves of intervening on behalf of either side.

Some nervous government officials have expressed concern the armed forces, which have initiated 18 coups since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, will take action against Ms. Yingluck as it did against her brother in 2006.

The king stays neutral

The nation’s frail 86-year-old King has also not intervened as he has done on several past occasions when the country has been paralyzed by political crises. Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX, is the world’s longest serving current head of state and revered as a near deity in the country.

On his birthday, December 5th, 2013, in his most recent public utterance, the King, struggling to get through the short address, appealed for unity “for the sake of the public, for stability and security for our nation of Thailand.”

Some Thai analysts have hinted the current turmoil is part of a behind-the-curtain struggle among fractious elements of the royal family, the military and political power brokers to prepare for the era beyond Rama IX. However, open discussion of this in Thailand is muted because of strict lese majeste laws.

Steve Herman

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

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid