Tag Archives: Bangkok

Thailand army declares martial law, insists move ‘is not a coup’

Thai soldiers take their positions in the middle of a main intersection in Bangkok‘s shopping district May 20, 2014.

Thailand’s military leaders declared martial law Tuesday in a surprise move which they say aims to restore peace and order after months of anti-government demonstrations and unrest have left the nation teetering.

Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha made the announcement on military television at 3:00 a.m. local time and assured the public that even though soldiers will now be in command of public security, order will rule the day. Dozens of people have been killed as a result of the protests since the demonstrations began in November 2013.

“We are concerned this violence could harm the country’s security in general. Then, in order to restore law and order to the country, we have declared martial law,” Prayuth said, as quoted by Reuters. “I’m asking all those activist groups to stop all activities and cooperate with us in seeking a way out of this crisis.”

A decades-long dispute over power has culminated within the past six months with large demonstrations and unrest. The situation escalated earlier in May, when Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was forced from office. Her ouster made way for sitting Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan, who said Monday that his administration would not step down.

The opposition demands that the government give way to an unelected administration that would then rewrite the constitution.

Thai soldiers take up a position on a main road in Bangkok May 20, 2014.

An army official speaking on condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that “this is definitely not a coup. This is only to provide safety to the people and the people can still carry on their lives as normal.”

A decree put out by the country’s armed forces has enacted media censorship that “prohibits all media outlets from reporting or distribution of any news or still photographs detrimental to national security,” said a statement by General Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Almost immediately following that declaration, satellite stations went off-air. AFP reported that broadcasts by television channels have been suspended, while an army statement read that the stations were taken off the air “in order that people will get the correct information and not distort information to deepen the conflict.”

Thailand’s armed forces have either launched or attempted 18 coups in the country’s 81 years of parliamentary democracy.

Despite the army’s claims, many analysts remain unconvinced that the action is not a move towards a full-blown coup.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, told AFP that he believes martial law was simply a prelude to the military taking full control.

I think what we are looking at is a prelude to a coup,” he said. “It is all part of a plot to create a situation of ungovernability to legitimise this move by the army. I would not be surprised if the next step is a military coup or the military taking charge with the advice of the senate and leading to the appointment of a new prime minister. But certainly the military is trying to take power from the government.”

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Thai PM calls elections as 100,000 join protests

Thailand‘s premier called a snap election Monday to try to defuse the kingdom’s political crisis, but protesters kept up their fight to topple her government with an estimated 100,000 demonstrators flooding the streets of Bangkok.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced more than a month of sometimes-violent street protests by demonstrators who want to suspend the country’s democracy in favor of an unelected “People’s Council“.

Thai opposition lawmakers resigned en masse from parliament Sunday, deepening the political deadlock.

Yingluck, the sister of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra, announced in a televised national address Monday that she would dissolve parliament and hold a general election “as soon as possible”.

“The government does not want any loss of life,” she said, amid fears that the mass rallies could bring fresh violence.

The election move could increase pressure on protesters to agree to some kind of compromise with the government.

But the leaders of the anti-government movement said that they were not satisfied with new elections, pledging to rid Thailand of the influence of Thaksin, a tycoon-turned-premier who was ousted by royalist generals in a coup seven years ago and now lives abroad.

“The movement will keep on fighting. Our goal is to uproot the Thaksin regime. Although the House is dissolved and there will be new elections, the Thaksin regime is still in place,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban told AFP.

“My people want more than dissolution. They are determined to regain their sovereignty,” he said.

Thaksin — who once described Yingluck as his “clone” — is widely considered the de facto leader of the ruling party.

Pro-Thaksin parties have won every election in more than a decade and despite the mass protests, many experts believe Yingluck’s party is likely to triumph in new elections.

The opposition Democrat Party — which said Sunday its 153 MPs were resigning from the 500-seat lower house because they could not achieve anything in parliament — has not won an elected majority in about two decades.

100,000 protesters take to the streets

Around 100,000 people were estimated to have joined the protests by mid-morning, according to the government’s Center for the Administration of Peace and Order, which was set up to deal with the unrest.

Demonstrators marched along several routes through the capital towards the government headquarters — the main target of the rally — paralyzing traffic in parts of the city.

Thaksin’s overthrow ushered in years of political turmoil and sometimes bloody street protests by the royalist “Yellow Shirts” and the rival pro-Thaksin “Red Shirts”.

Tensions remain high in the kingdom after several days of street clashes last week when police used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against rock-throwing demonstrators.

The unrest has left five people dead and more than 200 injured. The authorities have said they would try to avoid fresh confrontation.

“Police are unarmed, with only shields and batons. We will not use tear gas, or if we have no choice, its use will be limited,” Interior Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan said in a televised news conference late Sunday.

“The government believes we can control the situation. We will focus on negotiation,” he added.

Demonstrators and police have observed a temporary truce since Wednesday for the 86th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is treated as a near-deity by many Thais.

With turnout dwindling, Suthep had called for a final push to bring down the government.

“We want you to come out and march in every road. We will not go home empty-handed,” the protest leader said in a speech to supporters late Sunday.

The former deputy premier, who now faces an arrest warrant for insurrection, has vowed to surrender to the authorities unless enough people join the march to the government headquarters.

Thailand’s political conflict broadly pits a Bangkok-based middle class and royalist elite backed by the military against rural and working-class voters loyal to Thaksin.

The former premier went into exile in 2008 to avoid jail for a corruption conviction which he says was politically motivated.

The demonstrations were triggered by an amnesty bill, since dropped by Yingluck’s ruling party, which opponents feared would have cleared the way for Thaksin’s return.

They are the biggest and deadliest street demonstrations since 2010, when dozens of people were killed in a military crackdown on mass pro-Thaksin Red Shirt rallies in Bangkok.

Thai PM calls elections as 100,000 join protests | i24news – See beyond.

Thai protesters reach PM office after police remove barriers .

Thai police have changed tack, removing fortified barriers blocking anti-government protesters from entering the prime minister’s office. At least three people have died and 230 were injured in a week of protests aimed at ousting Thailand’s government.

Early on Tuesday police cleared the barbed wire barriers protecting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s office from the onslaught of anti-government protesters. Footage from Thai television showed the protesters milling around outside the Government House.

Prime Minister Yingluck was moved to a secret location on Sunday after activists stormed the police sports club where she had been staying.

The Thai police’s change of strategy seeks to defuse rising tensions following a week of protests. City Police Chief Kamronvit Thoopkrachang told Reuters that riot officers have been ordered to stand down.

“In every area where there has been confrontation, we have now ordered all police to withdraw. It is government policy to avoid confrontation,” Kamronvit told Reuters. “Today, we won’t use tear gas, no confrontation, we will let them in if they want.”

Police clashed with protests attempting to break through the barricades to Government House on Monday. Officers used tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to repel the activists, who threw rocks at police.

The worst violence of the week came on Saturday evening when a group of protesters opened fire at a pro-government rally, killing at least four people and injuring dozens more. Around 70,000 supporters of PM Yingluck had gathered in the Ramkamhaeng area of Bangkok.

Yingluck’s government has refused calls by the protest movement for snap elections and has dismissed their demands as “unconstitutional.”

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban – a former politician for the opposition Democrat Party – has demanded that Yingluck resign to make way for the formation of a “people’s council” made up of “good people.” Thaugsuban called for a nationwide strike on Monday

He has accused Prime Minister Yingluck of being a “puppet” for her billionaire older brother Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksim was ousted from government by a military coup in 2006 and subsequently fled the country after being found guilty of corruption. He now lives in exile in Dubai, but remains an important part of the current government.

Thai authorities announced over the weekend that Suthep was wanted for the charge of insurrection which shall be punished with death or life imprisonment.” An arrest warrant had already been issued for Suthep last week on charges of orchestrating the occupation of government ministries.

Thai protesters reach PM office after police remove barriers — RT News.