Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Army decries crisis decree; EC revises election strategy; Pregnant panda; Deep South toll surpasses tsunami

– Thailand news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Army against crisis decree
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The top brass disagree with the imposition of an emergency decree despite the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s threat to “shut down” the capital on January 13 to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down, military sources said yesterday.

The armed forces have made it clear that the soldiers assigned to deal with the protesters will carry only batons and shields, so the emergency law would not be of much help to the government, a security source said.

The government is considering an emergency decree in light of possible civil unrest after PDRC leaders said they would stage a mass rally to step up pressure on the Yingluck government to leave office to pave the way for “reform” of the country.

At the Supreme Command Headquarters, a meeting of the commanders of all three branches and the national police chief was called to evaluate the political situation. Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of the National Security Council, which proposed the emergency decree, also attended the meeting.

Military sources said the top brass feared a repeat of the confrontation with protesters during the 2010 political riots. Besides, the military does not play a major role in riot-control operations, they said.

The security law was also not yet deemed necessary at this stage and in fact might aggravate the situation. It would undermine the country’s image and the economy, especially the stock market, which is sensitive to political instability.

The sources said imposing the Internal Security Act and deploying police to control the situation were adequate. Security and intelligence officials have been instructed to monitor the PDRC’s mobilising of protesters from January 5-8 to evaluate the situation.

Paradorn said a meeting with the government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, which Yingluck also attended on Wednesday, discussed whether to levy the emergency decree to handle defiant protesters and brace for possible violence.

Security officials were informed that protesters from the provinces were being drafted to gather in the capital.

The officials will assess again on Sunday whether the situation is moving in the direction that the PDRC leaders have announced.

“If violence erupts or the situation develops into something that creates public terror, it fits the criteria that we can use to activate the emergency decree,” he said.

Yingluck can enforce the emergency decree for three days and if she wants to extend the period, she needs the Cabinet’s approval, he said.

The pro-government red-shirt camp said it would counter the PDRC with a “Bangkok open up” campaign.

Jatuporn Promphan, a core leader of the red shirts, told a press conference that the time had come for the people, red-shirt protesters among them, to stand up and fight against what he called the elite’s network, which planned to recruit southerners to oust the elected government.

Seizing Bangkok would lead to civil war, he said.

“We are ready but it depends when we will make a move. If we lose democracy, we don’t know what will happen. This month is the month of ‘make or break’. Please wait for a signal from us. We will fight under peaceful principles,” he said.

He also asked other provinces to stage warm-up rallies starting on Sunday, the same day that PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for a dry run before the real operation on January 13. Further details will be disclosed later, Jatuporn said.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court are moving in the same direction against the government – a manoeuvring in accord with the PDRC’s declared Bangkok shutdown that, he claimed, will open the way for a coup.

Red-shirt leader Thida Tavornseth said a Bangkok shutdown would be a setback for Thailand and democracy.

Seizing the capital would cause problems for the public. The PDRC and the Democrat Party were only serving aristocrats who were intent on obstructing democracy, she added.

EC to try again to sort out candidate registrations
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: The Election Commission will try again today to decide what to do about the districts, mainly in the South, where MP constituency candidates were prevented from registering by barricades and other physical measures taken by protesters.

The EC met yesterday from 10am-1.15pm and was expected to reach an agreement on a course of action but concluded that there were not enough facts and legal details to come up with a concrete solution.

Secretary general Puchong Nutrawong said 123 candidates in the South failed to file applications and two political parties, including Pheu Thai, suggested extending the filing period, which has ended. The matter will be decided today. So far, 53 political parties and 1,272 candidates have registered.

Some people have lodged complaints that people had obstructed the election and that the EC was not punishing them, so the commission itself was guilty of dereliction of duty, he said. However, he insisted the EC was still collecting evidence to take criminal action against these people.

MP candidate Varanchai Chokchana has suggested that the remaining candidates be allowed to file online, but the commissioners were worried about the authenticity of that method and have no experience with it and so will not be taking such an initiative, Puchong said.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, the commissioner in charge of elections, said he had met with a very high-level representative of the ruling Pheu Thai Party and the person recognised the challenges and what may happen if the polling does not go smoothly on February 2.

This was a good sign, as everyone seems to have a common understanding, he said. The caretaker government must acknowledge the possible repercussions and the reality that it may be necessary to defer the balloting. Some solution may be announced in 10 days’ time and the public should be relieved to learn about it, he said.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, opposition leader and head of the Democrat Party, said the EC should recommend to the caretaker administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that she postpone the election. The suggestion was made during his meeting with the EC.

The government should also listen to the voices of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, he said, and warned that if the government insisted on going ahead with the February 2 poll, it could fail like the one in 2006.

Abhisit did not meet with EC as planned but sent another person in his stead as Pheu Thai had changed its representative, Democrat Party spokesman Chavanond Intara-komalyasut said.

Police on defensive over protest shootings
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: National Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew has become the first senior official to admit that some policemen were indeed on the rooftop of a Labour Ministry building during the confrontation between police and anti-government demonstrators on December 26.

After Adul’s statement, Deputy National Police Commissioner Gen Worapong Chewprecha and National Police Office adviser Gen J

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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