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PAD still has stomach for political fight

Posted by arnon_k On April - 20 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

ANALYSIS: Anti-Thaksin group has proved it is not ready to retire into the shadows despite an image of disunity

The People’s Alliance for Democracy is proving it still has an appetite for people-driven politics, even though political observers say the yellow shirt group looks “quieter and less forceful” than it once was.

Its announcement on Wednesday that it will file a lawsuit against 416 politicians who are rewriting Section 291 of the 2007 constitution, followed by its meeting yesterday with the Siam Pracha Piwat academic group that also opposes the amendment, shows the group still wants to secure its position in the political arena.

The yellow shirts are ready for new campaigns against the pro-Thaksin camp, though PAD key leader Sondhi Limthongkul was not present at the Ban Chao Phraya headquarters for a press conference on the group’s legal action against politicians.

The less active role of Mr Sondhi, who once led thousands of people to protest against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has been viewed as an indication that he has made up with his rival.

“Those are totally senseless words,” responded PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan, saying such allegations are a dirty political trick against the PAD movement.

During the press conference, Mr Sondhi’s colleague, Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, said his friend was abroad.

Mr Sondhi insists he wants to protect the monarchy and oppose attempts to grant amnesty to political offenders. His media outlet ASTV keeps on attacking both the Pheu Thai Party and corrupt politics, said Mr Parnthep.

“Once the monarchy’s power is affected and an amnesty law is launched, we will begin our [large] movement,” he said.

The anti-Thaksin group’s preparation to file a lawsuit against 416 MPs, senators and members of the cabinet is its first move to stop them from changing Section 291 of the charter, which will lead to the forming of a constitution drafting assembly to rewrite the whole constitution.

The PAD views the amendment, allegedly done in a rush, as tantamount to an attempt to tear the charter apart, which is unlawful.

It has told its supporters to join it on April 26 to lodge the lawsuit with the Office of the Attorney-General.

The meeting between the PAD and Siam Pracha Piwat was also important in determining the group’s movement in the near future.

They discussed 14 issues concerning administration of the country and hoped their proposals could be an alternative to attempts to bring Thailand out of its political mess.

Both sides agreed about the monarchy and a new political structure, but their opinions differed on such topics as the economy, national resources, education and media agencies, according to Siam Pracha Piwat member Thawisak Sutthakawathin, the council chairman of the National Institute of Development Administration.

“The final conclusion of the meeting will be used for the movement of people countrywide,” Mr Parnthep said.

The PAD’s activities can help repair its image of disunity, especially after two key leaders, Somsak Kosaisuk and Suriyasai Katasila, bade farewell to the group due to their different opinions.

As the Pheu Thai-led government attempts to help Thaksin return home, the PAD can reap benefits from people who dislike Thaksin and strengthen its place in the political pecking order.

PAD kicks off charter war

Posted by arnon_k On April - 19 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Yellow shirts to file suit against 416 politicians
The People’s Alliance for Democracy will file a lawsuit against 416 MPs, senators and the cabinet for allegedly trying to illegally overthrow the 2007 constitution through the current amendment process.
The extension of the parliamentary sitting for an indefinite period to amend Section 291 to allow the rewrite of the entire charter reflected an effort to rush through the change, PAD core leader Chamlong Srimuang said yesterday.
This was tantamount to a joint effort to tear down the constitution for political purposes, he said.

The PAD will file lawsuits against the 416 politicians under Section 68 of the constitution, which prohibits any act deemed to be an effort to overthrow the country’s democratic system and to unlawfully obtain power to rule the country, he said.

PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan called on yellow shirt supporters to join the group in lodging the lawsuit with the Office of the Attorney-General on April 26.

Prosecutors will be asked to examine the case and consider forwarding it to the Constitution Court, which can order a stop to the charter amendment process and impose penalties on those who defy it.

Political parties that defy the court order in this case could be dissolved and their leaders and executive members banned from politics for five years, he said.

The PAD will also lodge a complaint with the National Anti-Corruption Commission against the 416 politicians for alleged misconduct prohibited under Section 275 of the constitution.

The motion to amend Section 291 of the charter is supported by Pheu Thai MPs who want it approved by parliament on May 8.

The opposition Democrat Party has voiced opposition to the change. Party members have expressed concern that the constitution drafting assembly (CDA) that will be formed to rewrite the constitution would work in favour of the Pheu Thai-led government, which has been pushing for its de facto leader Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand.

Thaksin, whose government was toppled in a coup in 2006, has lived in self-exile abroad since 2008 to escape a two-year jail term after he was convicted of abuse of power to help his ex-wife buy a prime plot of state land in 2003.

His red shirt supporters disagree with the 2007 charter, which was promulgated during the military-appointed Surayud Chulanont government, although it was approved by a majority of the people in a referendum.

The move to rewrite the whole charter was proposed by the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s youngest sister. The move has drawn fierce protests from the PAD.

Despite criticism, the second reading of the amendment proposal went ahead yesterday, but it proceeded slowly due mainly to disagreements about the CDA’s structure.

The CDA structure, which is supported by the government, would be made up of 77 drafters, who would be elected from each province, and 22 experts, who would be appointed by parliament.

The opposition party claimed during the debate yesterday that Pheu Thai would use its voting power in parliament to select candidates of its choice to sit on the list of experts.

The election of the other 77 members could never be fair because of the differences in the sizes of the population of each province, they said.

Senator Chet Sirathananon questioned why the joint House-Senate committee vetting the amendment draft had reversed a decision to include the 22 appointed experts on the CDA.

He said committee members had voted 12-10 to exclude them from the list.

Instead of the 22 expert members, the CDA should have 200 elected members.

“If the government wants to avoid criticism that it’s trying to influence the CDA, it should compromise on its stance by listening to other opinions,” said Mr Chet.

Yellows reject red-shirt approach

Posted by arnon_k On March - 12 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS

Lawyers representing the yellow-shirt group had been approached by their red-shirt counterparts to help Pheu Thai’s attempt to push an amnesty bill through parliament, a spokesman for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) said on Monday.

Panthep Wongpuapan said lawyers of the “Thaksin regime” had recently contacted PAD lawyers.

They asked the yellow-shirt movement to support the bill, but their proposal was rejected. The group rejected the request on the grounds that the yellow-shirts aimed to protect the law, not destroy it by supporting the draft legislation.

He accused the government of lobbying people in all sectors linked to state power, including the PAD, to accept the draft legislation.

The PAD would not surrender to any pressure and was ready to fight in the courts, he said.

The group called on the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, the ruling Pheu Thai Party and fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra to not destroy the country’s justice system by trying to enact an ‘amnesty’ bill in the name of ‘reconciliation’ bill.

Mr Panthep said that additional criminal charges had been laid against PAD core leaders, including himself, in a case involving the occupation of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in 2008, since the PAD rejected the red-shirt lawyers’ approach.

He claimed there were indicators showing that the case was being rushed by the authorities.

The Pheu Thai party is working hard to make sure the “amnesty” bill has enough public support before it is tabled for parliamentary scrutiny, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung announced today he would spend the next four or five months explaining details of his reconciliation bill before submitting it to the House of Representatives. He insisted it is his personal bill, with the support of at least 20 MPs as required by law, and not legislation proposed by the government.

According to Mr Chalerm, the bill is a “national reconciliation law”, not an amnesty bill. However, the bill aims to grant an amnesty to all parties convicted of political offences since — and as a result of — the Sept 19, 2006 military coup which unseated the government of Thaksin Shinawatra.

PAD shelves mass rally over charter

Posted by arnon_k On March - 11 - 2012 ADD COMMENTS


The People’s Alliance for Democracy yesterday backed away from its threat to stage a major Bangkok rally against the charter rewrite in a move hailed by the government as a breakthrough in easing political tensions.

However, after a meeting of about 2,000 rowdy PAD supporters at Lumpini Park Hall, the group’s leaders said shelving the mass rally was dependent on two conditions. First, the constitution rewrite should not reduce the power of the King or change the structure of the monarchy, and second, it should not open the way for an amnesty for fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his ”cronies”.

PAD spokesman Panthep Phuaphongphan said the mass rally may be put on the table again if ”the conditions are ripe enough for a big political change among Thai people”.

”Under these conditions … the PAD will hold a major rally immediately,” said Mr Panthep.

Samart Kaewmeechai, chairman of the joint committee vetting the draft charter amendments, hailed the PAD decision, saying it would help create ”a good political atmosphere”.

He also played down the yellow shirts’ fears over the changing of the sections related to the monarchy.

”The committee has agreed that the monarchy-related section will remain intact. So, the PAD should not worry about that,” he said.

Mr Samart said the matter of an amnesty for Thaksin should rest with the government-appointed reconciliation committee, chaired by Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin.

A constitutional amendment could not grant an amnesty for any individuals, he added.

Hard-core yellow shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul told the crowd he would continue fighting Thaksin as he had done for eight years. He said he did not believe the government’s promise not to touch on the issue of the monarchy in the charter rewrite.

The yellow shirt gathering was the first staged under the Yingluck government and was seen as a bellwether of public support for the anti-Thaksin group. Survey forms were distributed during the event. A quick tally found one-third of those who attended said it was not the time for the PAD to stage a rally without the support of other parties, including the military.

Mr Panthep rejected a suggestion the yellow shirts’ support had dwindled, prompting them to put the rally on hold.

He said they would start a nationwide campaign as soon as possible about the charter rewrite and the direction parliament has taken on the issue.

Nanta, a 59-year-old teacher from Chon Buri, welcomed the PAD’s resolution, saying the issue was far too critical for the group to handle alone and the public needed to be better educated about the issues.

Surichai Wungaeo, director of Chulalongkorn University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the PAD’s tempered approach could be a harbinger of a new maturity in public participatory politics.

He said the government should also take the opportunity to demonstrate to the public that it can be trusted.

”Thai politics does not allow trust to take up more space than paranoia and mistrust. So, it’s the government’s duty to expand participatory politics so that people can join each other.”

He said to do so the government should focus on ”opportunities for the public, rather than opportunists”.

The parliament voted 341-181 on Feb 23 to consider the three charter amendment drafts.

They seek to change Section 291 of the charter, kicking off the first step of the rewrite, with the creation of a constitution drafting assembly to work out charter amendments.

Pipob Thongchai, another yellow shirt leader, said the PAD’s cautious approach could lead to real change as the group was serious about building up networks and educating people about political regimes.