News / Asia

    Thailand Tightens Security as Tensions Escalate

    Members of the pro-government "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014. Members of the pro-government "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.
    x
    Members of the pro-government "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.
    Members of the pro-government "red shirt" group take part in a rally in Nakhon Pathom province, on the outskirts of Bangkok, May 11, 2014.
    Ron Corben
    Thailand faces a crucial week in its long running political crisis, as fears of violence and civil strife have led to calls by senior security officials to tighten security. 

    Thailand's caretaker government says it is stepping up security to prevent clashes between pro- and anti-government protests.

    Political tensions are rising amid anti-government calls for a neutral prime minister to be appointed.

    Department of Special Investigation chief Tharit Pengdit says calls for a non-elected head of government by the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) are illegal.

    Tharit said the PDRC leader Suthep Thangsuban's calls for a non-elected prime minister are "illegal" and are intensifying conflicts that may lead to violence and even civil war.

    Meanwhile, leaders from the pro-government Red Shirt movement made similar warnings of growing social conflict as supporters rallied Saturday, many carrying banners of the image of ousted prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra.

    Yingluck was dismissed along with nine Cabinet members by the constitutional court last week on charges of nepotism.  She was replaced by Deputy Premier Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan.

    The government says it hopes to press on with elections scheduled for July 20.  February 2 polls were annulled.  

    The governing Pheu Thai Party, largely under control of former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, hopes to regain the political initiative at the election.  Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election since 2001.

    But the opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the earlier vote, is threatening to again stay out without political reforms.

    Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn says the Thai military has stepped up its presence in Bangkok to prevent clashes by the opposing political camps.

    Panitan says the political battles are set to escalate over the issues of an appointed prime minister and a Royal decree setting a new election for July 20.

    "The legal battles between the two issues will continue for a few days.  In the meantime the supporters of the two groups - the Red Shirts and the PDRC - will drum up their supporters and I think the offensive political move will be in the hands of  the PDRC, the move more quickly to pressure the Senate to act.  But also the aggressive move could be adopted by the Red Shirts trying to occupy other strategic locations," said Panitan.

    But reports Sunday said military commanders appeared opposed to Suthep's call for the setting up of an interim government.  The army has ruled out a military coup, saying it will only intervene if violence escalates.

    Senior advisor to a pro-government Democratic Force Party, Prasaeng  Mongkonsiri, says behind the scenes talks may already be underway, including with Thaksin.

    "The negotiation is now going on.  Not by Khun Niwattumrong probably by Khun Thaksin Shinawatra with some man behind the scene of the PDRC.  My personal opinion I believe Khun Thaksin is trying hard to negotiate to find a good solution for the country," said Prasaeng  Mongkonsiri.

    Thailand's present conflict erupted after Yingluck's government passed a bill granting a general amnesty that would include clearing the way for Thaksin, who has lived in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption, and return home a free man.

    But while Thaksin has been strongly supported in the rural areas, he faces opposition in the capital and southern provinces by the urban middle class.  He may also have lost support among grass roots backers over failed populist economic policies under Yingluck's government.

    You May Like

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora