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Protesters disrupt poll registration

Posted by Rattana_S On December - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Pheu Thai registers at 4am but others forced to lodge police complaints

Anti-government protesters yesterday managed to interrupt the first day of candidate registration for the February 2 election, which demonstrators have vowed to disrupt as they push for national reform by a people’s council.

Hundreds of protesters began to besiege the Thai-Japanese Sports Stadium, the candidacy registration venue in Din Daeng area, on Sunday night. They blocked six gates to the stadium.

The process of party-list candidate registration had yet to be completed, election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said at a press conference along with his four commission colleagues after the blockade by protesters.

Somchai said all submitted documents needed to be verified, and Election Commission (EC) members had not endorsed the registration, plus political parties had yet to make registration payments.

However, the EC announced that 34 political parties were regarded as submitting their party-list applications before 8:30 am on the first day for registration. They were all eligible for lot drawing to allocate party-list numbers.

EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said representatives from nine parties managed to enter the compound, including the ruling Pheu Thai Party and its coalition Chart Thai Pattana, and Chart Pattana Party, because they arrived early at 3-4am.

He said 24 other parties could not reach the venue and they filed complaints at Din Daeng police Station to notify their intention to contest in the party-list election, while another party filed a complaint at the Police’s Crime Suppression Division. Even the five commissioners could not enter the compound.

“We closely monitored the situation. We tried to get into the building but they told us that no guarantee for safety so we decided not to walk through the crowd,” Supachai said.

Somchai reaffirmed the EC would neither move registration to another venue nor extend the registration period as scheduled for registration of party-list candidates, currently due to end on Friday, at the stadium.

Somchai said the EC would meet every day to evaluate the situation and set a date for the draw, which will be conducted before all political parties and the media.

Meanwhile, People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban has a plan to prolong the anti-government rally well after New Year’s Day and possibly until the election day, according to a source from the PDRC, who asked not to be named. They would celebrate the season at the Democracy Monument, the source said.

Suthep’s strategies would include instigation of chaos to create the picture of a failed state, the source alleged.

On Sunday night, EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong sent a letter to inform political parties that if their representatives arrived and could not enter the venue to register party-list candidates by 8.30am yesterday, they should file complaints at Din Daeng police station or the Crime Suppression Division to be entitled for the draw for election numbers.

Puchong said the draw had to be held at the stadium unless there was a violence incident. The EC could announce it was shifting to another venue. However, as a secretary general of the EC, he had yet to file complaints against the protesters for obstructing the candidacy registration, as he needed solid evidence to prove that.

Chart Thai Pattana candidate Somsak Prissananantakul told TNN news channel that the chaos at the registration site was a new phenomenon in Thai political history. It was the first time that candidates faced difficulty in registering. He voiced concern that constituency candidates scheduled to register on from December 28-January 1 would give up, if they feared of their security.

A number of the protesters at the stadium later left to surround Din Daeng police after hearing that political parties went to file complaints at the police station.

Many media personnel were also prevented from getting in or out of the stadium after 6am. About 40 were eventually able to leave at about 2pm and the rest released at 4.30pm.

After the close of registration yesterday, Chumpon Junsai, a PDRC leader, told the protesters to move from Din Daeng police station to continue to surround the Thai-Japanese stadium.

People convicted of hampering the registration of political party candidates face up to five years in jail or a fine up to Bt10,000, Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) spokesman Pol Maj Gen Piya Uthayo said yesterday. He said people who obstruct EC officials from carrying out their duty would face up to two years in jail and a Bt40,000 fine and those block MP candidates would be committing an offence against others’ liberty. That was a violation of Article 309 of the criminal code.

Army deputy spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree said Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha issued an instruction to deploy 390 military officials to keep the peace at the Thai-Japanese centre since Sunday night at the request of CAPO after yesterday’s dramas.

Pheu Thai MPs to convene on Monday

Posted by Rattana_S On November - 24 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
(The Nations) Pheu Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said all MPs will meet on Monday, getting ready for the no-confidence debate which is scheduled for November 26-27.

All MPs are told to closely monitor the political situation until the end of this month, he said.

Though three anti-government groups join force to topple the government, he said the government would not call for House dissolution.

Prompong said that former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban is likely to lead supporters to the Parliament building and the Government House, to block the no-confidence vote. On another front, the Democrat Party could rush the National Anti-Corruption Commission to impeach 312 MPs and to call for the reopening of the House when only Democrat and Bhum Jai Thai MPs remain. They would then vote against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and vote to appoint Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as the prime minister.

“Is this actually the plan?” Prompong asked, directing the question to Suthep and Abhisit.

He noted that 15 million voters who support Pheu Thai Party would not stay idle if this is true.

On Monday, he would go to NACC to urge for fair investigation into the 312 MPs, who endorsed the charter amendment on senator selection.

The investigation followed the Constitutional Court’s ruling that the amendment was unconstitutional. Pheu Thai still questioned the court’s authority in reviewing the case.

Anti-government groups have stepped up their movement, with plans to cripple Bangkok on Monday. While more supporters are coming from provinces, including some 2,000 from Chon Buri and more from Nakhon Ratchasima, the pro-government groups have also mobilised supports. Over 10,000 are expected from eight provinces in the North – a major stronghold of Pheu Thai Party.

Despite the mounting pressure against his sister’s embattled government, ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday instructed the ruling Pheu Thai Party to cling on to power in the hope the opposition-led rally against the amnesty bill would die down soon, a Pheu Thai source said yesterday.

Thaksin, who is believed to be pulling strings behind the ruling party, disagreed with an idea for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to dissolve the House of Representatives, according to the source.

He believed the anti-amnesty protest, now centring around the Democracy Monument, would fizzle soon after “the funds run out” and the Senate rejects the government-backed amnesty bill. He wanted Pheu Thai MPs to help retain the government’s status quo, the source said.

Ruling politicians presented a number of possible solutions to Thaksin, including House dissolution and the PM’s resignation, but the ex-leader disagreed with those proposals, according to the source.

In a bid to further pressure the government, nine MPs from the opposition Democrat Party yesterday announced their plans to resign, at the protest site at the Democracy Monument.

Suthep Thaugsuban and eight other Democrat MPs would resign their seats to be able to turn their full attention to leading the protest against the government, a party source said. Among the MPs who would resign are Thavorn Senneam, Satit Wongnongtaey, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Issara Somchai, and Chumpol Jullasai.

The party source said Suthep decided during a party discussion yesterday to resign so he could lead the protest without worrying that his role would lead to legal action against the party and to its dissolution.

Initially, the party had resolved to allow Democrat MPs to resign of their own volition. However, with the party worried about the by-elections coming up in 45 days, it decided only a few could resign. Many more Democrat MPs would resign if the government remains adamant, the Democrat source said.

Stocks take a hit

The political situation negatively affected the stocks and the baht yesterday.

The baht fell to a 7-week low at 31.62 per US dollar, weakening by 0.70 from Friday’s closing. The SET index closed at 1,405.91 points.

Traffic congestion in many areas of Bangkok worsened yesterday as anti-amnesty protesters gathered at four locations in inner city areas – Silom, Asoke, Ari and Saphan Kwai – before marching to Democracy Monument, where the main protest site was located.

Many business firms cancelled events scheduled for yesterday and later this week, citing severe traffic congestion in the city and the political situation. They included Charoen Pokphand Foods, Kasikorn Bank, and Seacon Group.

The Government Housing Bank announced the closure of its two branches near Ratchadamnoen Road from yesterday until tomorrow.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce planned an urgent press conference today about its concern over possible negative impacts on the country’s economy from the ongoing political situation.

Meanwhile, the Council of University Presidents of Thailand yesterday offered to mediate in the conflict between the government and its opponents.

The council of rectors held a meeting at Chulalongkorn University and came up with a resolution to offer to mediate the conflicts between the two sides. The meeting was attended by the rectors of 26 universities. The council has 27 member universities.

Thammasat University rector Prof Somkid Lertpaitoon, who serves as the council’s president, said the current political landscape was changing very fast and could lead to violence.

Red shirts feel betrayed

Posted by Rattana_S On November - 2 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Pre-dawn amnesty push turns anger against Thaksin and Pheu Thai

FOUR RED-SHIRT Pheu Thai MPs, including Weng Tojirakarn, abstained from voting for the controversial amnesty bill yesterday.

Red-shirt MP Korkaew Pikulthong, however, did vote in support of the bill. He later posted a message on his Facebook account saying he had voted as a Pheu Thai MP and not as a red-shirt co-leader.

“Out of respect for the voice of the majority, I have never opposed the opinion of the majority as a red-shirt co-leader whenever there’s a resolution, even if I may personally disagree … To red-shirt brothers and sisters who are upset with me, you can criticise or curse me as much as you like and I accept it and would like to apologise for having a different opinion on the matter. But this is my frank confession.”

A highly placed source said former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra might decide it is time to break with the so-called progressive red shirts who oppose the lese majeste law as they have become a liability in the reconciliation process with the traditional elite.

The source also said Thaksin felt the relatives of those killed in 2010 had already received Bt7.5 million each and some red-shirt co-leaders had become MPs or been appointed to other government positions.

In a special session of the House of Representatives, lawmakers voted 310:0 to pass the third reading of the bill early yesterday. Four Pheu Thai MPs – Nuttawut Saikuar, Weng Tojirakarn, Worachai Hema and Khattiya Sawasdipol – abstained from the vote.

Seven Pheu Thai MPs who are also red-shirt leaders voted in support of the amnesty bill. They are Korkaew Pikulthong, Cherdchai Tontisirin, Apiwan Wiriyachai, Wiphuthalang Phattanaphumthai, Phayap Punket, Shinawatra Haboonpad and Prasit Chaisisa.

All of them are party-list MPs, except Prasit, who is a Surin MP.

Meanwhile 29 of 33 opposition Bhum Jai Thai Party MPs voted in support of the amnesty bill. They included Chai Chidchob, Jakrawal Chaiwiratkul, and Sopon Saram. The four other MPs abstained.

In a related development, relatives of those killed in the April-May 2010 crackdown and the so-called progressive wing of the red shirts reacted with a sense of betrayal and deep anger against the party and ousted and convicted former prime minister Thaksin.

Phayaw Akkahad, mother of slain nurse Kamolkaed Akkahad, said she felt betrayed by Thaksin but vowed to fight on until those responsible are brought to justice.

“What Thaksin did today was an act of betrayal against the people. Thaksin became ungrateful to the 15 million people who voted for him,” said Phayaw, sounding noticeably upset. She said she and other relatives of those killed in 2010 would soon call a press conference, and insisted that she would not give up calling for the end to the immunity even if she had to fight alone.

A group of 20 red-shirt university students led by Panitan Prueksakasemsuk, son of lese majeste convict Somyos Prueksakasemsuk and a senior law student at Thammasat University, staged a protest in front of the Pheu Thai Party headquarters. Organising a play mocking Thaksin under the title “Stepping on Dead Bodies to Return Home”, Panitan told The Nation that his feelings towards Thaksin had changed and the development demonstrated that most politicians cannot be trusted.

The red-shirt movement, said Panitan, is now divided over the issue, but the blame must be placed squarely on Thaksin and the Pheu Thai Party and not on those who oppose the blanket amnesty, he stressed.

Sombat Boonngam-anong, Red Sunday group leader, said he would try to muster 10,000 red shirts on November 10 to demonstrate against the bill. Sombat acknowledged that there was nothing opponents of the bill could do to stop the parliamentary process but added that the red-shirt movement must reform itself.

Sombat said that perhaps Thaksin knew something that the public at large did not. Some red shirts have speculated that a deal had already been struck by the elite on both sides of the political divide to ensure immunity and exoneration for all key figures.