Apart from the bill – which many see as a case of the govern ment having shot itself in the foot – the administration is also on the defensive against nationalist groups fired up by the Preah Vihear land dispute, which is expected to reach its conclusion today in a much-awaited ruling at 4pm by the International Court of Justice.
Depending on what action the court takes, a possible outcome is that Thailand will have to cede some of its soil to Cambodia.
In another move by the anti-amnesty movement to pile up pressure on the Pheu Thai-led government, demonstrators belonging to the People’s Army Against the Thaksin Regime camping at the Phan Fa Lilat Bridge will this morning march to three undisclosed locations. The largest anti-amnesty rally is being held at Democracy Monument.
Four newly formed groups, rallying their supporters through the social media, have also announced separate marches to be held today on several Bangkok streets. The first group, calling itself the Civil Community, vowed to gather in front of the Silom Complex at noon and begin a march at 12.34pm.
They will be joined by marchers from the Asoke Community, the Ratchadaphisek Community and a group based in the Saphan Khwai and Aree areas, in a march to Rajdamnoen Avenue to meet up with those currently rallying at the Democracy Monument under the guidance of the opposition Democrat Party.
Meanwhile, former leaders of the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang will hold a press conference on the political situation today at 10.30am.
In defiance of the anti-amnesty movement, the red-shirt movement has sponsored a large gathering of around 10,000 red shirts at Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi in a show of unity between the ruling party and the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra red-shirt movement, despite the fact that a large number of red shirts are opposed to blanket amnesty.
In another move not to be missed today, the Senate will meet at 10am to vote on rejecting the bill in its first reading. Will it be in time? The anti-amnesty rally led by the Democrat Party has delivered an ultimatum for the ruling Pheu Thai Party to scrap the bill by this evening.
Political observers believe the government will miss the opposition’s deadline to abandon the bill by 6pm.
The protesters would then escalate their efforts to topple the government as their goal goes beyond the annulling of the bill, a key leader of a coalition party told The Nation.
A House dissolution could be demanded by the protesters.
However, for several reasons, the ruling Pheu Thai Party is not ready to call a snap election at this juncture.
Dissolving the House now will not ensure the bill is absolutely dead because the new House of Representatives can resubmit the same bill within 60 days. If there is a chance for the bill to be revived, that point will be used by the opposition Democrat Party in its election campaign.
These issues are coming to a crescendo as the government and Yingluck are losing popularity, according to poll results released yesterday.
Last week’s strategic retreat by the government on the amnesty bills also signals that dissolution of the House is not an option. On the contrary, it seems to be rather a tactical retreat before striking back.
A Pheu Thai source said the party would do anything to try to convince society that the government would not reaffirm the amnesty bill after it is rejected by the Senate.
The source said the red-shirt rally yesterday was a strategy of the party to show to its supporters it was not retreating and the show of force was also aimed at intimidating the military and independent organisations.
“But in the end, if the party sees that it cannot go further, the House will be dissolved,” the source said.
Pheu Thai denied yesterday that its strategic committee has recommended the government to dissolve the House following mounting protests against the amnesty bill.
“I think the false news was spread with a political purpose,” party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said.
He said he had checked with government leaders and they also ruled out a House dissolution.
The government’s opponents would hold simultaneous protests on Silom Road, the Asoke intersection and Soi Ari in the Saphan Kwai area before moving to the Democracy Monument, he said.
A complaint would be lodged with the attorney-general this week, seeking to dissolve the Democrat Party for allegedly attempting to bring down the government, he added.
The DAAD held its first rally at Don Muang Technical School at 9am, and then held its “Over 10,000” rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection.
The “DAAD-Pheu Thai Defending Democracy” evening rally was held at SCG Football Stadium Muang Thong Thani at 4pm, with several red-shirt leaders and Pheu Thai MPs attending.
The leaders who spoke on stage at the Muang Thong Thani rally included DAAD chairwoman Thida Thawornset, Deputy Commerce Minister Nuttawut Saikuar and Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn.
Weng told the Muang Thong rally that the government’s opponents – including the Democrat Party – were holding protests against the amnesty bill with the intent to topple the elected government. The red shirts were, therefore, left with no choice but to turn out and defend the administration they had elected, Weng said.
Sombat Boonngarmanong, editor of Laijud magazine, who is the leader of the Red Sunday Group, led thousands of red shirts to demonstrate at the Ratchaprasong intersection.
The red shirts gathered in front of McDonald’s fast-food restaurant at Amarin Plaza and walked to the intersection to tie up pieces of red cloth.
Sombat said his group was opposed to the amnesty bill because it would absolve former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban for their alleged roles in the killings of red-shirt demonstrators in 2010.
Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang, DAAD leader Jatuporn Promphan, former DAAD leader Veerakarn Musigapong and Weng, also joined the Ratchaprasong rally.
Jatuporn told the red shirts at Ratchaprasong the government would bring Abhisit and Suthep to justice.
— Phuket Gazette Editors