News / Asia

    Thailand's Anti-Government Protesters Invoke Monarchy

    FILE - An elderly man listens to King Bhumibol Adulyadej make a speech on a giant screen, on the king's 86th birthday at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Dec. 5, 2013.
    FILE - An elderly man listens to King Bhumibol Adulyadej make a speech on a giant screen, on the king's 86th birthday at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Dec. 5, 2013.
    Daniel Schearf
    As Thailand’s political deadlock continues, anti-government protesters are accusing Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister and backer of the ruling party, of working against the country’s revered monarch. Disloyalty to the king is a serious crime in Thailand and Thaksin's supporters say the charge is nothing more than a political smear.

    Royalists in Thailand's anti-government protest movement have long accused former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of undermining the King, the country's most revered figure.

    Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban argues Thaksin wants to use his sister, the current prime minister, to remake the country as a republic with himself as president.
     
    Such allegations are routinely aired by protesters like Duangjai Amarttayakun.

    "Yes, I agree with Khun Suthep. And so are most of the Bangkokians. The reason that more Bangkokians come out, or more people come out from all over the country, was because of this," Duangjai said. "You know, he was trying to bring down the monarch."
     
    Defaming Thailand's King Bhumiphol Adulyadej can carry a prison sentence for up to 15 years under the punitive “Lese Majeste” laws. The revered king remains widely popular and has long been seen as above Thailand’s political disputes.
     
    That popularity, says Noppadon Pattama one of Thaksin's lawyers and a ruling party lawmaker, is why politicians like Suthep imply defamation offenses for political purposes.
     
    "He would like to draw the crowd to his rally because Thai people love the King.," Noppadon said. "Anyone who is against the King would be discredit(ed) or would be demonized as an enemy of Thailand. Which, Dr. Thaksin, he loves his King."

    Noppadon spoke to VOA in the "Thaksin Shinawatra Library" at the ruling Pheu Thai party headquarters.  Three empty bookshelves that were once full of writings by Thaksin stand empty after they were ransacked by protesters.
     
    At the entrance, across from the library, is a large photograph of Thaksin kneeling at the King's feet in reverence.

    While the King has not intervened in the country’s current deadlock, some Pheu Thai supporters have said they suspect he endorsed the military coup that unseated Thaksin in 2006. Since then, anti-Thaksin rallies have been defined by protesters’ yellow shirts and other royal imagery.
     
    But in the current standoff, protesters are wearing less yellow and seem to be avoiding large displays of the monarchy, notes academic and independent legal expert Verapat Pariyawong.
     
    “I think, and I would predict, that the monarchy itself sent some form of signals to these protest leaders that I don't want to be used as your symbols anymore," Verapat said. " If you want to fight you can fight but don't use the picture of the King. But, I can't say that as I don't have the fact to back it up. And, if I have the fact to back it up I would say it, if there's no Lèse-majesté law.”
     
    The frail 86-year-old King has made no direct, public comments on the recent unrest except on his birthday when he urged unity among Thai people.
     
    But analysts say Thailand remains divided and Thaksin's opponents blame him for splitting the country and interfering in politics as an un-elected leader.
     
    The protesters want what they call the "Thaksin Regime" removed from Thai politics by forcing out the current government and Thaksin loyalists, who they say are corrupt.
     
    The telecoms tycoon, who championed populist policies in Thailand's rural northeast, lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a prison sentence for abuse of power.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.