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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More