Phuket Gazette Thailand News: Red shirts call off protest, but the poor stay; Exam cheat teachers to be charged; Plan to close 14,000 schools

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

Yellows stay as reds head to Parliament
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: After staging a sit-in demonstration for 17 days, the red shirts yesterday announced the end of their protest after a rally motorcade from the Constitutional Court to Parliament to call for the impeachment of five judges who have agreed to hear a petition against the amendment of Article 68 of the Constitution.

Although the red shirts announced they would mobilise up to 100,000 protesters, not as many turned up early though more joined in after the rally got underway at 9.30am.

Meanwhile, hundreds of yellow-shirt Thai Compatriots and Territory Protection Front members, gathering since Tuesday at Sanam Luang, are refusing to clear the site.

They say they will stay until Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is ousted and that their presence won’t interfere with Royal Ploughing Ceremony on the grounds next Monday.

The red-shirt community radio group leaders yesterday jointly read a statement saying they would take recourse in accordance with Article 274 of the Constitution to seek the impeachment of five Constitutional Court judges – Jaran Pukditanakul, Charoon Intachan, Chalermpon Ake-uru, Nurak Marpraneet and Suphot Khaimuk.

They are opposed to the court’s agreeing to consider a petition filed by Senator Somjet Bunthanom over the amendment of Article 68.

In a motorcade which included motorcycles, pickup tracks, buses and personal cars, the red-shirt protesters rallied from the Constitutional Court to Parliament, where they filed a petition with the House Speaker.

The red-shirt leaders submitted two letters to Deputy Senate Speaker Surachai Liengbunler-schai, one supporting the 312 MPs and senators moving to amend the Constitution and the other signed by 20,000 people seeking impeachment of the Constitutional Court judges.

The letter accuses the five judges of violating Article 157 of the Constitution and lacking ethics.

Red-shirt leader Pongpisit Kongsena Pongpisit said he would bring to Parliament a list of 50,000 people who joined the campaign to oust the five judges within 15 days.

He added that red shirts would disperse now that they have completed their mission.

Around noon, a woman in her 30s dressed in black lambasted the media near the rally stage opposite Parliament.

One of the red shirts shouted out that she was not a red shirt, causing others to flock to her.

Red-shirt guards rushed to remove her from the scene as others tried to assault her physically. The woman fled in one of the buses that carried the red shirts to Parliament, before she was pulled out and hit on the head.

She screamed in pain and with the help of the red-shirt guards managed to take shelter in a government building.

Yellow-shirt leader Chaiwat Sinsuwong said his group had considered a police request to vacate Sanam Luang but resolved to stay until Yingluck is ousted. He said he expected 100,000 protesters by this weekend.

They are also demonstrating to offer moral support to the Constitutional Court judges and oppose the Preah Vihear court case.

Monday’s Royal Ploughing Ceremony is for farmers, many of whom support protesters in Chaiwat’s group. Chaiwat said his group would adjust its protest to accommodate the ceremony and join in the annual rite, which marks the start of the rice-planting season.

“We will stay until the government goes. Once it does, we will go home. Our protest will not move to the Constitutional Court as we respect other people’s rights.

“If we go there, a clash [with the red shirts and others] would happen and that would be as some people want. [They are looking for] riots and a military coup. So we will stay here to confirm our stance,” Chaiwat said.

Deputy Bangkok Governor Pol General Assawin Kwanmuang yesterday met former Yasothorn senator Sombun Thongburan who led yellow shirts from Nakhon Ratchasima to the Sanam Luang rally. Assawin asked Chaiwat to leave the site because the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration must get the grounds ready for the ploughing ceremony.

Thousands more join P-Move rally
The Nation / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: Some 300 Pak Mool Dam villagers under the Assembly of the Poor were among the thousands to join the People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) protesters camping outside Government House and calling for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s to keep her promises.

The Pak Mool villagers want the dam’s sluice gates to be kept open all year round so they can continue with their traditional profession of fishing. The dam, open only four months of the year, blocks the path for fish.

“We were told to make brooms instead, but that’s more difficult because brooms go for Bt9 per piece compared to fish, which yield Bt30-Bt40 per kilo. The Pak Mool Dam affects our way of life and income,” Malee Tamsriwan, a 45-year-old fisherwoman Ubon Ratchathani’s Sirindhorn district

Sompal Keundee, 40, from Ubon Ratchathani’s Khong Chiam district, recalled that the group had rallied in Bangkok in January and that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung had promised on February 22 to table this issue with the Cabinet, but nothing happened. The group is still in the dark as to whether anything will be done this time after Chalerm promised on Tuesday to table the issue on May 14. This time the villagers hope that the government will set up a committee to help compensate them and keep the dam permanently open, Sompal said.

These protesters were among the 2,000 people who joined the P-Move rally to demand concrete government action.

Trang rubber farmer Kalaya Mankitti from the Network for Banthat Mountain Range Land Reform said she had been driven out of her 50-rai plantation as it allegedly encroached on forestland even though she had been living in the area long before it was named a national park. She said the group had rallied four times during this government’s term and each and every time they had been promised a solution but nothing was done. Hence, she said, this time they would stay put until the Cabinet actually orders action to be taken to tackle their woes.

Rasita Suiyang, a member of the network of displaced Thais in Ranong-Prachuap Khiri Khan seeking Thai nationality, said her ancestors were Thai and lived on Thai soil, but the 1868 border map put them on Myanmar territory. In Myanmar she was considered a minority and forced to join labour camps, which prompted her to move in with her relatives in Thailand. However, in Thailand she is viewed as a migrant and state officials have been refusing to grant her Thai nationality.

Meanwhile, the Northern Farmers Federation is calling for a fund to be established so villagers can purchase land from private firms. Lamphun’s community land-title deed cooperative president Rangsan Saensongkwai, 56, said he and other poor villagers were being sued by a private firm for farming on abandoned land.

Surapol Songrak, a rubber farmer from Surat Thani’s Phrasaeng district, who is part of the Southern Farmer Federation, said they had been having a land dispute with a private firm because the villagers want land to farm on, while the company has won a concession to grow oil palm there. This dispute has resulted in death threats, and so far, two villagers have allegedly been killed over it.

The Four-Region Slum Network member Prathin Ve

— Phuket Gazette Editors

Thailand News

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