News / Asia

Thai Security Forces Tighten Control of Bangkok

Police moving inside the Terminal 21 shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
Police moving inside the Terminal 21 shopping center in Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
— A major Bangkok shopping center was ordered closed by police Sunday after anti-coup protesters tried to prevent an officer from arresting one of their fellow demonstrators.

Thousands of customers in the Terminal 21 mall at the major Asoke intersection had to abandon early afternoon shopping, eating and movie-going after dozens of police moved inside the complex, following a five-minute rolling fight past pastry shops, a Starbucks and clothing stores.

Police and soldiers, some carrying automatic weapons, as well as two army trucks, including a Humvee with a mounted machine-gun, responded to the intersection.  The incident began 20 minutes earlier when several people at the entrance to Terminal 21, adjacent to the BTS Asoke Skytrain station, held aloft anti-coup placards and chanted “Freedom.”
An armored vehicle rolls through the intersection adjacent to where a small anti-coup rally occurred in Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
An armored vehicle rolls through the intersection adjacent to where a small anti-coup rally occurred in Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)

Such demonstrations are illegal under decrees issued by army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha who has seized all executive and legislative power in the country.

Earlier Sunday, nearly 6,000 soldiers and police had deployed to eight locations, including other shopping plazas and the Victory Monument, to discourage flashmob-style protests.  There were no rallies at those locations.

Instead, word spread through social media to converge on Terminal 21 after a posting of the location was announced on the Facebook page of Sombat Boon-ngamanong, the fugitive leader of the Red Sunday Group.

Sombat has taunted authorities since the May 22 coup, daring them via social media “To Catch Me if You Can.”

The dozens of anti-coup protesters, some from the red shirt movement, and perhaps 100 or more sympathetic spectators who converged on the area defied the top general's ban on such gatherings.

Some on the Skywalk made a three finger salute, emulating the gesture meant to express appreciation and respect to those departing made by the repressed residents of poverty-stricken District 12 in the “Hunger Games” movies.
A woman being forced into a taxi by suspected plainclothes police officers after she allegedly flashed a three-fingered salute signalling her opposition to the military coup in Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)
A woman being forced into a taxi by suspected plainclothes police officers after she allegedly flashed a three-fingered salute signalling her opposition to the military coup in Bangkok, Thailand, June 1, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA)

Anyone apprehended defying Thailand's coup faces trial by military courts.  Several arrests were reported Sunday.

In a nationally broadcast address Friday, Prayuth announced a timetable of up to 15 months before the holding elections and framing a constitution to replace the one he has expurgated.

Since the coup, which came several days after martial law was declared, several hundred politicians, activists and academics have been summoned to turn themselves in to the military.  Most have been released after being warned not to engage in political activity or to leave the country.

A spokesman for the National Council of Peace and Order, the junta's formal organization, stated in a VOA interview, the coup was carried out to rid the kingdom of the influence of the family of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin, a billionaire telecommunications tycoon, was ousted in Thailand's previous coup, in 2006.  His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who became prime minister following 2011 national elections, was forced to step aside as the leader of the country's caretaker government following a judicial decree that she and some members of her Cabinet had abused their authority.

Yingluck, who was among those who have been detained and released, posted on Sunday a picture of her with her son on social media, commenting that a lot had changed in Thailand during the past week, adding she wants to “thank you all again for support of me all along.  And I would like to hereby extend my moral support to all Thais.”

Bangkok urbanites and ardent royalists, along with much of the elite in the powerful military, have been strong opponents of Yingluck and Thaksin, who is in self-imposed exile, facing prison for a corruption conviction should he return home.

The United States and other countries have called for a swift return to democratic government.

Since the coup, Thailand’s revered ailing 86-year-old king has not made an appearance.  But a royal appointment issued in his name was given to General Prayuth, formalizing the army chief’s hold over the government.

Thailand has seen 19 successful or attempted coups since the abolition of absolute monarchial rule in 1932.  King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as Rama IX, has reigned for nearly 68 years, making him the world’s longest-serving current head of state.

Steve Herman

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

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: jonathan huang from: canada
June 02, 2014 10:07 AM
smart move! Thai must learnt from China. China cracked down the riot at Tiananmen and exchanged 30 years stable development. Thai must crack down the riot and focus on economy!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
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.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid