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US Embassy describes anti-government protest as peaceful

Posted by Rattana_S On December - 23 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

The US Embassy in Bangkok on Monday described the ongoing protests against Yingluck government as peaceful.

When asked to comment on the protesters’ demand for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign from the position, Spokesman Walter Braunohler said it was the Thai people to decide on the matter.

He also dismissed the reports that it is compiling a blacklist of anti-government leaders including Suthep Thaugsuban.

“In accordance with our policy on visa matters, we do not comment on individual cases or applications. However, we note that rumors regarding alleged blacklisting or travel restrictions associated with current Thai political leaders or activists are completely false,” he said.

There were widespread of rumours on the social networks including Facebook and Twitter that the embassy wished to put the 14 leaders of the rally on a blacklist for entering the US.

The rumours said it was because the rally leaders involved in the protests in front of the embassy a few days ago.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced a road map for national reform yesterday that would go hand in hand with the February 2 snap election, requiring all political parties to pledge to honour the reform process after the election.

However, critics from the opposition Democrat Party appeared unconvinced, calling it a ploy to try and discourage the large numbers of people expected to join anti-government protests in Bangkok today.

Under Yingluck’s plan, all parties would have to pledge that the new government holds power for only two years, to see through the national reform process. Its mandate would be the creation of the reform council to work side by side with the new government. The reform council would represent peoples from all walks of life – both at local and national level – along with those representing various professions.

The caretaker premier said the national reform council would have a working mandate of two years to coincide with the next administration. The council would have the duty of proposing long-term reforms for the Kingdom, particularly political reforms, “so future politics can truly speak for the people”, Yingluck said.

Yingluck said she was fully committed to a speedy reform process that would involve all parties and all Thais, so that everyone could be a part of a process, which restores peace and order to the country.

However, deputy leader of the Democrat Party, Jurin Laksanawisit, said he was not convinced and posted a message on his Facebook page yesterday, saying the caretaker government would have to take responsibility if something untoward happened as a result of not implementing reforms before the snap election. Jurin also called the move a selfish decision for the sake of self-preservation.

Democrat Party spokesperson, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut said the announcement was a ploy to reduce the number of protesters today, but it would have the opposite effect. He also criticised the caretaker premier’s proposal as vague, superficial and rushed.

Chief adviser to the Chart Thai Pattana Party, Banharn Silpa-archa, said he was optimistic about the snap election, adding that the party would be campaigning throughout the Kingdom. He hoped that a small party like Chart ThaiPattana would have the opportunity to form the next government. Banharn, who recently returned to politics from a five-year political ban, said he would be the number-one candidate on the party list for his party.

Banharn also said he had not recently met or spoken with Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC). Banharn said he was not sure if Suthep still considered him a friend. They might find it difficult to relate to one another under the current circumstances, he added.

In a related development, a group of academics and students from 15 southern education institutions issued a statement condemning the caretaker government for not yielding to reform before the election. They called on all people to put pressure on the government.

Suan Dusit poll, meanwhile, revealed 91.55 per cent of 1,240 Bangkokians surveyed, believe politicians are the cause division in society today. Eighty  per cent also said politicians lacked morals, ethics and were self-serving.

(Reuters) – Anti-government demonstrators in Thailand said they will step up their protests in an attempt to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office and push through electoral reforms before a general election is held.

The number of protesters camped on the street in the capital has dwindled to about 2,000 over the past week but their leader, former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, called for marches in central Bangkok on Thursday and Friday, followed by a big rally on Sunday.

“We will chase Yingluck out this Sunday after she made it clear she will not step down as caretaker prime minister,” he said late on Tuesday.

Suthep massed 160,000 protesters around Yingluck’s office on December 9, when she called a snap election for February 2 to try to defuse the crisis. Yingluck remains caretaker prime minister.

Suthep has sought the backing of the influential military but has so far been rebuffed. Thailand’s military – a frequent actor in Thai politics – ousted Yingluck’s brother, the self-exiled Thaksin Shinawatra, when he was premier in 2006.

“We will walk until the number of people who come out to join us outnumber those who elected Yingluck. We will march until the military and civil servants finally join us,” Suthep told reporters.

This month, a court issued an arrest warrant for Suthep on the charge of insurrection but police have done nothing to apprehend him, despite his appearance at a seminar with the military and other public events.

On Wednesday, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), Thailand’s equivalent of the U.S. FBI, said it would ask banks to freeze the accounts of 18 rally leaders, including Suthep, to investigate what it called “suspicious activity” – a sign the authorities might be taking a tougher stance.

“We will investigate whether they are funding the protest or if any suspicious transactions have taken place,” DSI chief Tarit Pengdith told reporters.

Thailand’s eight-year political conflict centers on Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon popular among the rural poor because of cheap healthcare and other policies brought in while he was in power.

Yingluck won a landslide victory in 2011 and her Puea Thai Party is well placed to win again because of Thaksin’s strong support in the populous, rural north and northeast.

Ranged against him are a royalist establishment, that feels threatened by Thaksin’s rise, and, in the past at least, the army. Some academics see him as a corrupt rights abuser, while the middle class resent what they see as their taxes being spent on wasteful populist policies that amount to vote-buying.

Thaksin chose to live in exile after fleeing in 2008 just before being sentenced to jail for abuse of power in a trial that he says was politically motivated.


Even if the election takes place on February 2, its legitimacy could be undermined if the main opposition Democrat Party does not take part.

At a two-day conference that ended on Tuesday, the party reappointed former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva as its leader. However, its members could not agree whether to run in the election or back the street protesters.

Democrat lawmakers resigned from parliament this month to march with Suthep, who was a deputy prime minister in Abhisit’s government until 2011.

Some agree with his call for reforms to be implemented before another election is held, but others believe their party, Thailand’s oldest, should respect the democratic process and run for office. A decision is expected on Saturday.

Suthep’s program remains vague and it is unclear how long it would take his proposed “people’s council” to implement any reforms.

He wants to wipe out vote-buying and electoral fraud and has also promised “forceful laws to eradicate corruption”, decentralization, the end of “superficial populist policies that enable corruption”, and the reform of “certain state agencies such as the police force”.

Suthep’s protest gained impetus in early November after Yingluck’s government tried to push through a political amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home a free man.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)

Game reaches dead end

Posted by Rattana_S On December - 11 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

PM pleads for justice as PDRC pushes on with its ultimatum

CARETAKER Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra fought back tears yesterday when asked by reporters to respond to the anti-government group’s demand that the whole Shinawatra clan leave the country.

In a shaky voice, her eyes welling with tears, she said she has backed down to the point where she did not know how to back down any further.

“Everyone can get hurt. It is not that I have no feelings. I have paid attention to the protesters’ demands. We all are Thais. Do you want us not to even live on Thai soil?” Yingluck asked.

Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat MP and leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), on Monday succeeded in mobilising over 100,000 protesters and demanded Yingluck and the entire Cabinet immediately relinquish administrative power after she announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives. He also vowed to create a “People’s Assembly” to reshape the country.

Though the new election date has been declared for February 2, the situation remains tense, as it is unclear if Thailand’s oldest party – the Democrats – would boycott the election, as they did in 2006.

The situation in Bangkok has caught international attention. Yesterday, Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said in a statement: “We encourage all involved to resolve political differences peacefully and democratically in a way that reflects the will of the Thai people and strengthens the rule of law.”

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also issued a statement, saying: “Confrontation is not a solution. Political exchange and a democratic dialogue is the right solution for now.”

He also noted that if Bangkok witnessed more use of force, and more bloodshed, it would be a backward step for democracy, political and social stability as well as for Thailand’s economic development.

Yingluck yesterday said she would stay on until the election was over. She also urged protesters to end their rallies and to go to the polls, to uphold democracy.

Thailand yesterday celebrated Constitution Day, remembering King Rama VII for the promulgation of the first constitution in 1932.

“What the government could do is to dissolve the House and return power to the people. We do not want to see violence,” Yingluck said. Though key members of the Pheu Thai Party want her to contest the election, she said there has been no consultation yet. She refused to say if she would quit politics.

“I did not think that the situation would turn out to be like this. I do not want to see Thai politics become violence-prone,” she said.

Former House speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont said the PDRC’s demand for the government to resign is driving the country towards a dead end.

In a televised programme, caretaker Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri announced that in a consultation between government agencies including the Council of State, under the Constitution’s Article 181, the government cannot leave office before the election is complete.

“The Cabinet is working based on the principle of collective responsibility. We have been appointed by His Majesty the King. But Suthep tried to establish another government without any legal support. The legal government considered that the PDRC’s actions were violating His Majesty the King’s royal prerogative power,” he said.

Suthep urged protesters to stay with him until tomorrowDecember 12. In the announcement on Monday, he called officials across the country to report to the PDRC, rather than to their offices, in a bid to paralyse the administration.