PHUKET: A political confrontation is looming between pro- and anti-government mobs, with Democrat Party MPs having decided to lead a group of supporters to Parliament House today, which is protected by a huge police force and controls imposed under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The opposition’s stance of combining street protests with its legislative efforts became clearer when Phatthalung MP Niphit Intharasombat said that future Democrat rallies against the Pheu Thai-led government’s push for an amnesty bill might be held jointly at Lumpini Park. There is now a large rally at this site by an anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement.
Several pro-government red-shirt groups, including members of the Phuket Pitak Siam group (click here for article) are travelling to the capital to show support for the government and the bill, which would seek pardons for many pro-Thaksin protesters indicted for violence and crimes committed during the riots in Bangkok three years ago.
Supporters of the so-called People’s Army gathering in the provinces are expected to arrive in Bangkok today, when the bill is submitted to Parliament for its first reading.
The People’s Army, which has the tag “To Overthrow the Thaksin Regime”, said yesterday that it would heighten the scale of its rally by 9am today. The rally leader, retired Admiral Chai Suwannapharb, said all tactics and moves of organisers needed to remain secret, but people keen to know what the protest plans would be were welcome to join the rally.
Police spokesman Maj-General Piya Uthayo said there would be no further estimates on the number of anti-government protesters today, but he said an intelligence report noted that both sides were gathering a mass of supporters. An extra deployment would be made available – some six more units in total – to cope with the increasing number of people in each group, he said.
Speaking onstage at the anti-Thaksin People’s Army rally on Monday night, Niphit announced: “I now call on brothers and sisters of the Democrat Party to gather here.
“I also call on the brave to test the ISA, by converging outside Parliament House to give me support,” the MP said. “If you cannot enter the [ISA-imposed] zone, give me a call. Parliament debates [scrutinising the bill] are open to the public, and the ISA does not prohibit a peaceful gathering in the [ISA-imposed] zone,” he said.
Democrat MP Satit Wongnongtaey, said all Democrat MPs would lead a group supporters to the Parliament at 9am, and would ask policemen guarding the Parliament whether the supporters could get in the compound. “This is a symbolic measure signifying the Democrats’ fight [against the bill], both inside and outside the Parliament, as they would not violate the law,” he added.
At a party rally in Bangkok’s Uruphong area on Monday, fellow Democrat MP Suthep Thuagsuban vowed to stage a rally around the clock to “show off the people’s power” to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He said all Democrat MPs would “continue the fight outside the Parliament” if any person attending this rally sustained a scratch from police action. That was because the location – a public space under an elevated expressway – is outside the ISA zone, declared over three districts in Bangkok where Government House and Parliament are located.
Opposition whip and Democrat MP Jurin Laksanavisit said there would be no agreement made with the government on the duration of scrutiny or sessions of debate, as it would be useless to seek a time frame fixed by the government from 1pm to 11pm. He said a request would be made through the House Speaker and the PM for a live telecast of the House debate on the pardon bill.
Meanwhile, a group of red shirts visited the Democrat headquarters on Setsiri Road yesterday to call for support for the pardon bill.
PHUKET: The authorities have received information from the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) group in relation to the killing of a prominent Imam in Pattani on Monday, but no details have been made available (click here for article).
General Paradorn Pattanatabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council (NSC), confirmed this yesterday but refused to elaborate.
“Questions have been asked and some answers have arrived, but I can’t disclose the information,” he said.
BRN and Thai authorities have been engaged in peace negotiations, with the next round of talks scheduled to take place on August 18.
Imam Yakob Raimanee of the Central Masjid in Pattani, who openly worked with the Thai authorities, was gunned down on Monday. This assassination took place even though BRN had promised a truce during the month of Ramadan.
Paradorn has dismissed suggestions that the imam’s killing showed that the peace dialogue has been a failure.
“The imam was targeted earlier, two years ago,” he said, pointing out that the peace dialogue had only begun this year.
However, Paradorn acknowledged that after the imam’s death, people would become more reluctant to cooperate with the authorities’ efforts to end the turmoil in the deep South.
He said police were looking into Yakob’s killing in line with normal procedure, but the authorities would also ask BRN about the incident via Malaysia, which is the facilitator of the talks.
Paradorn said violence seemed to have intensified in the deep South during the latter part of Ramadan, adding that those who do not wish to see the peace dialogue go ahead were trying to disrupt it.
When asked if there were any other groups that wanted to become part of the peace dialogue, Paradorn said two other groups had come forward, but as of now the Thai authorities had decided that all contact would be made via BRN.
Meanwhile, the Scientific Crime Detection Division 10 Yala Centre said tests showed that the type of bullet and revolver used on Yakob matched the type used in several other security cases.
More than 7,000 people attended praying rites ahead of Yakob’s funeral late on Monday. He had commanded much love and respect in the local community.
Waedeuramae Mamingji, who chairs the Pattani Islamic Committee, said everybody was sad about what had happened. “But this will not affect religious leaders’ determination to promote the right principles and peace talks,” he said.
Waedeuramae said Yakob was usually given a sec
— Phuket Gazette Editors
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