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Thai pro-government protest leader shot

Posted by Nuttapon_S On January - 23 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Kwanchai Praipana was shot and wounded by unidentified assailants in a drive-by shooting.

A leader of the pro-government ‘red-shirt’ movement has been shot and wounded outside his home in northeast Thailand, hours after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra enforced a state of emergency in Bangkok and its surrounding areas.

Kwanchai Praipana, who leads thousands of pro-government supporters in Udon Thani city, was shot and wounded by unidentified assailants in a drive-by shooting on Wednesday.

Speaking to Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, a family member said Praipana was in hospital recovering after having bullets removed from his arm and leg in what police described as a “politically motivated attack”.

The shooting comes shortly after the government introduced a state of emergency to cope with protests aimed at ousting the embattled prime minister from power.

The new measures, which cover Bangkok and its surrounding provinces, allow security agencies to impose curfews, detain suspects without charge, censor media, ban political gatherings of more than five people and declare areas off-limits.

The decree follows increasing attacks at protest sites for which the government and protesters blame each other.

Announcing the 60-day emergency late on Tuesday, ministers said they had no plans to clear the camps that protesters set up at seven major road junctions in the city.

Rather, they said they wanted to prevent an escalation of violence after deaths and injuries caused by grenade attacks on demonstrators over the weekend.

Despite the decree, most of the capital remained unaffected by the state of emergency, with a light police presence, no overnight curfew and protesters on the streets.

Political tensions

The protests are the latest episode in an eight-year political crisis that has gripped Thailand since Yingluck’s older brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by royalist generals seven years ago.

The conflict pits the middle class of Bangkok and royalist establishment against Yingluck and her brother and their support base among the rural poor in the north and northeast.

Protesters want Yingluck to step down to make way for an appointed government that would oversee electoral reforms and curb the political dominance of her family.

Protesters have threatened to disrupt the election Yingluck called for February 2. The opposition Democrat Party, closely aligned with the protesters, is boycotting the polls.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, has rejected the election outright. He accuses Thaksin of corruption and nepotism and wants to change the electoral system to eradicate the influence of Thaksin, who lives in exile in Dubai to avoid a jail term handed down in 2008 for abuse of power.

The Election Commission said it would seek a ruling from the Constitutional Court on Wednesday on whether it could delay the vote.

Adding to Yingluck’s problems, farmers, who are part of her core constituency, threatened to join the protest if they did not get paid for the rice they sold to the government under a controversial intervention scheme.

Many red-shirt supporters arrived on motorcycles and in vans on Friday to challenge the anti-government protesters near the Chaeng Wattana rally site.

Tension rose at the site at 11am when the red-shirts arrived together with a sound truck. They announced through the public address system that that the rally at Chaeng Wattana was causing hardship to passenger van operators and local residents.

The red shirts formed their line about 100 metres from the barrier line of security guards of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Gunfire was heard while the red shirts were confronting the PDRC guards, causing sending the motorcyclists and vans to flee before later regrouping.

Army officers near the scene rushed in to set up a line of barriers on the road to prevent the two sides from coming near each other. Police officers also joined the Army officers in trying to control the situation.

The situation eased at about 12:30pm when the two sides stepped back from the confrontation.

Earlier, at noon, an explosion was heard from the side of the Prapa Canal causing protesters and reporters to dash for cover behind the PDRC’s barrier.

Injuries in Pathum Thani clash

Posted by Rattana_S On January - 11 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

AT LEAST FOUR PEOPLE were injured when a group of red shirts clashed with People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) supporters in Pathum Thani yesterday.

The clash erupted after PDRC supporters began travelling around Pathum Thani’s Muang district, inviting residents to join their anti-government rally on Monday, which will be held in tandem with the PDRC-led Bangkok shutdown. The procession led by outspoken monk Luangpu Buddha Isara included some 100 vehicles.

In the clash, a 16-year-old student and a man were hurt by shrapnel from giant firecrackers, while two red-shirt supporters, Prayad Nakplong and Sutiwat Tima, were also injured with the latter shot in the head.

Upon learning of the PDRC procession, red-shirt leader Wutthipong Kajathamkhun, better known as Koh Tee, decided to lead a group of red shirts to confront the anti-government crowd.

Police tried to stop the two sides from confronting each other, but Wutthipong’s vehicle broke through the police’s barricade, resulting in a violent clash.

There were sounds of gunfire and explosions and it was found that a red-shirt man had been shot and another man injured by an explosive. A blast also injured a teenage boy who was passing by. All four were rushed to Bhumibol and B-Care hospitals.

A bullet hole was also found in the windscreen of a PDRC vehicle.

Also yesterday, Sornrak Malaithong led hundreds of members of the People’s Radio for Democracy on motorcycles from Pathum Thani’s Talad Thai Market to the headquarters of Daily News and Thai Rath newspapers as well as to the head offices of ThaiPBS and Channel 7 TV stations.

They demanded that the media provide fair reports on the political conflict and called on Bangkok residents to come out against the planned shutdown.

Sornrak’s group also stopped at the Department of Special Investigation to express support, before heading back. On their way they passed a group of PDRC demonstrators and there was the hurling of abuse back and forth without any violence.

In a separate development, police yesterday arrested a fourth-year student from Ramkhamhaeng University for allegedly stealing the gear of riot-control police officers.

Pol Colonel Saroj Soonsup, deputy commander of Metropolitan Police Division 4, said Chakkrapong Boonruang, 23, had been arrested at his rented room in Ramkhamhaeng Soi 57, where they found a bullet-proof vest, a helmet, leg-protectors, a black baton, a teargas canister and other things.

Saroj said police raided Chakkrapong’s room following a tip-off from a resident in the soi, who said that teenagers living in the area had been boasting about having stolen some riot-police gear during the December 26 clash at the Thai-Japanese stadium.

Separately, the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) yesterday urged people affected by the anti-government protests to file police compalints.

CAPO’s deputy chief Pracha Promnok said people living in Bangkok could file complaints at any police stations as well as the Crime Suppression Bureau on Phaholyothin Road. He said that provincial authorities would assign officials to accept complaints.

He said a 24-hour police service had been set up to deal with |problems during the shutdown, specifically if people are unable to conduct financial activities such as pay car loans, insurance or rent.

The First Army Region Commander Lt-General Teerachai Nakwanich said yesterday that 40 companies of military officers would join forces with police to take care of the situation on Monday.

Deputy national police chief Pol General Worapong Chewpreecha had earlier said that 56 companies of police would be among 96 companies of defence personnel to be deployed on the day.

Network opposes coup, backs election and reform

Posted by Rattana_S On January - 11 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Sixty prominent academics, intellectuals and activists across the political divide came together for the first time yesterday to create a network against violence or military coup, as well as to support fair elections and reform.

Their press conference yesterday at Thammasat University comes just a couple of days before the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) shuts Bangkok down on Monday and amid rampant speculation about an impending military putsch.

The new group, calling itself the “Network of Two Yes-es and Two Nos”, said they feared that the risk of widespread violence was real and hoped that Thais on both sides would learn how to co-exist peacefully.

Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), who has been highly critical of many policies of the current Yingluck Shinawatra administration, said that both sides should acknowledge the need to be empathetic.

“There’s a need to understand those on the opposite side, to understand the discontent of the red shirts and for the red shirts to understand Bangkokians and others who have come out to protest and are worried about the majority voice taking matters into their own hands,” he said.

Seksan Prasertkul, a noted political scientist and charismatic former student leader and ex-communist rebel who is usually reclusive, was also at the table expressing concern. He too urged everybody to accept the reality of Thailand as a pluralistic society.

“This society has developed to a point where there exists diversity in terms of interests and thinking,” he said, adding that there a single group cannot claim to be speaking on behalf of all Thais, because Thai society was no longer homogenous. He also warned that there were some who wished for a military coup as well.

“We can’t use means outside the democratic framework because it will not bring about a consensus. Even if it is done out of good intentions, what is gained won’t be worth the loss,” he warned, adding that sustainable change was needed and that Thais would have to rely on reasoning and wisdom to go through the immediate future without bloodshed.

The group also said that a coup “would be the starting point of violence between the coup makers, the people and among the [different groups of] people”.

At the same time, it called for the caretaker government to respect people’s right to peaceful assembly and only use force to maintain law and order when necessary and ensure it is in accordance with international standards.

Chaiwat Satha-Anand, Thammasat University political scientist and expert on non-violence, urged Thais not to give up on peaceful means to resolve the current cri?sis.

The network also said it supports the election, adding that it is “a political right of all Thais which no person or group can violate”.

The group also called for the creation of a Civic Reform Forum in order to enable a truly open reform process that’s not dominated by any one party. The network said it would try and present more detailed proposals in subsequent meetings.

Thammasat University political scientist Kasian Tejapira also called on PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban to stop blowing his whistle and start listening to others. He urged Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha to stop talking about a coup and asked Yingluck and her fugitive older brother Thaksin to pay heed to others, especially those who think differently.

A source from the network, who asked not to be named, said the group had assigned members to work on a national reform proposal along five aspects and release it at a forum on January 26. For instance, the TDRI has been tasked to come up with an anti-corruption proposal, while the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy has been told to look into promoting direct democracy.

The forum will be held at a university in Bangkok, but the exact venue is yet to be announced.

The source said that even though the network had declared they disagreed with the PDRC’s methods, most members agree that the February 2 election will not resolve Thailand’s division. However, they did not mention the issue in order to avoid confusion.

‘Network of 2 Yes-es and 2 Nos’

Who they are

The ‘Network of Two Yes-es and Two Nos’ is made up of prominent academics, intellectuals and activists from both sides of the political divide. The network was launched yesterday.

Network’s members

There are 60 people listed. Those critical of the government include Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) president Somkiat Tangkitvanich, former TDRI head and noted economist Ammar Siamwalla, and consumer rights activist Saree Aongsomwang. On the pro-government side are noted historian Nidhi Eoseewong and Red Sunday group leader Sombat Boonngam-anong. Well-known Buddhist monk Phra Paisal Visalo and former student leader Seksan Prasertkul are also members of the network.

Their standpoints

No violence by all sides and the government must only use force to maintain law and order if necessary and use it in accordance with international standards.

No military coup; the network said a coup would only deepen the conflict and lead to more violence and bloodshed.

Yes to an election; they say electoral right is an inviolable political right.

Yes to national reform; but the process must be all inclusive, participatory and legitimate, involving all parties in dialogue.