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, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

1855 Slave Brochure Starkly Details Sale of Black Americans

Document lists entire families that were up for sale in New Orleans, offering graphic insight into the slavery trade More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
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 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 Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
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 Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
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 Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
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.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs