During the march down Bangkok yesterday, Suthep was seen waving to supporters, accepting cash donations and putting them in a bag carried by his aide. He often returned the favour by posing for photographs and signing autographs.
Though the PDRC has marched through Bangkok’s busy streets several times, it has managed to keep things cheerful and colourful. On Thursday, a troupe of cabaret dancers and lion dancers also joined in – all armed with whistles, of course.
Suthep set off with his supporters from Democracy Monument to the Asoke area on Thursday morning, calling on the general public to take part in the mass protests tomorrow. However, instead of offering to join the march, many supporters preferred to hand over cash.
These cash donations began after the Department of Special Investigation decided to freeze the bank accounts of 18 protest leaders. Through cash handed over at the march and via other means, Suthep managed to collect Bt600,000 in donations on Thursday alone.
Observing the rally, @Suloveboss tweeted: “Whoa! This is clearly a top-up mob. People hand over Bt20, Bt50, Bt100, Bt1,000 banknotes all the way at almost every minute. “
Another woman was seen holding up a banner that read: “I am pretty and rich and have come to top up money for Uncle Kamnan [Suthep].” She, along with two of her friends, had travelled to Silom from Phaholyothin to donate cash directly to PDRC leaders. “I have already donated drinking water and money at the rally sites. But today I want to add a little more, as Uncle Kamnan’s accounts have been frozen,” she said.
Likewise, protester Satawan Inthasa said she had travelled from Ekamai to Silom so she could hand cash over to Suthep in person. She said she had raised Bt10,000 for him so far.
While the march seemed lively, some bystanders did not seem that pleased. Many shop owners, such as tailors, rice retailers and pharmacists, on Silom Road said they wanted to remain neutral and not offer donations or join the Sunday march because their work was more important.
Another shop owner, who asked not to be named, said his business was being affected because not many customers could come to his store while the protesters were marching.
A tailor, who preferred to remain anonymous, said this protest was hurting his business very badly, adding that he was still recovering from the 2011 floods and the red-shirt protests in 2010.
Yet some people are keeping optimistic, saying such setbacks are a sacrifice they are willing to make in order to uproot a corrupt regime.
Meanwhile, more than 70 former Democrat MPs from Bangkok and the South have decided not to contest the election.
EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said the registration venue – Kilawet Stadium at the Thai-Japan Youth Centre – would be well protected by police to ensure the registration process would not be interrupted. He said if the venue was besieged by protesters, a new location would be designated to register election candidates.
And if the registration of candidates could not start, the EC would consider whether to expand the period in which to do this.
Yingluck and members of her Cabinet, including caretaker Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul and caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri, met with the five new election commissioners at the EC head office yesterday afternoon. The meeting lasted more than an hour and was followed by a press conference, hosted by the commission.
The caretaker prime minister refused to talk to reporters after the meeting, saying that the EC members would explain details in their press conference.
At that conference, EC member Thirawat Thirarojwit said both sides agreed the next election was significant and that there was a need to ensure it was free and fair. He also said the caretaker PM offered to provide sufficient funding for holding the election and for security.
Thirawat said the EC simply wanted political reconciliation ahead of the ballot. “The election day should not become a day of big chaos or confusion,” he said.
Somchai said the EC found that many voters were not in the mood to go to an election, mainly because of the current conflict.
Chaikasem, the caretaker justice minister, said there would be no postponement of the poll.
The EC had earlier suggested reconsidering the election date because of the growing political tension.
Meanwhile, more than 70 former Democrat Party MPs, most from Bangkok and the southern provinces, decided not to contest the next general election, a senior party source said yesterday.
They consist of more than 90 per cent of Democrat MPs from its two major strongholds, and more than 60 per cent of the party’s constituency MPs.
The former MPs said they would not seek re-election even if the Democrat Party decided to contest the next election, according to the source, who said the ex-MPs made their decisions after heavy lobbying by Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee.
Suthep leads a protest movement to pressure the caretaker Cabinet to resign and postpone the election to make way for political reform.
The source said that with most former Democrat MPs planning to boycott the election, other party colleagues were likely to follow suit.
The party is due to convene a meeting today and contesting the election will be a key item on the agenda.
A survey of all Democrat branch heads found that all of them disagreed with the party contesting the election, former MP Sirichok Sopha said.
In the previous election in 2011, the Democrats won 117 seats in the House of Representatives from constituencies and another 44 from the party-list system of proportional representation. Fifty of the constituency seats were won in the South, 24 in Bangkok, 26 elsewhere in the Central region, 13 in the North, and four in the Northeast.
All opposition Democrat MPs resigned their seats on December 8 to protest against what they described as an illegitimate House of Representatives after passage of a controversial amnesty bill. The mass resignations were followed by Yingluck’s decision to dissolve the House the next day.
The Democrats yesterday sent representatives to talk with most of the main political parties, including the ruling Pheu Thai and the coalition Chart Thai Pattana, to seek their support to postpone the election.
However, Pheu Thai rejected the idea, saying the election should go ahead as planned.
“Postponing the election might make it look like the country has no rule of law,” Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said, adding that the poll should go ahead and political reform be implemented afterwards.
At the Defence Council meeting yesterday, which was chaired by caretaker
— Phuket Gazette Editors