Thai junta prepares for “red shirt” protest

Thai junta prepares for “red shirt” protests

May 27, 2007, 4:31 GMT

Bangkok – Thailand\’s junta has made preparations to deal with \’red shirt\’ protests against the possible dissolution of the country\’s two largest political parties by a constitution tribunal ruling this week, media reports said Sunday.

General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, leader of the September 19 coup who now heads the Council for National Security (CNS) – as the junta has styled itself – has issued an order to troops in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces to be on alert for protests leading up to the tribunal\’s ruling on Wednesday.

The Constitution Tribunal is scheduled to decide whether the Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thais) party, founded by ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Democrats, which is the kingdom\’s oldest political party, committed fraud by attempting to manipulate the outcome of the April 2, 2006, general election.

Strong evidence that the election was manipulated prompted the Supreme Administrative Court to annul the election\’s results on May 8, last year, shoving Thailand into a political wildeness it has yet to emerge from.

If found guilty both parties may be dissolved and their executive committees banned from national politics for the next five years, deemed a potentially massive blow to Thailand\’s already weakened political party system.

Although leaders of both parties have pledged to accept the court ruling and avoid stirring up unrest in its aftermath, anti-coup groups are expected to start putting pressure on the tribunal prior to Wednesday that may escalate into demonstrations should the ruling disband the parties, or more controversially just disband the Thai Rak Thai party which has a massive following in among the rural poor.

‘We received reports that these supporters, including those who have been hired to cause unrest, have been travelling into the capital from places in the North and North-east,’ said the CNS it its directive to the troops.

‘They reportedly plan to wear red shirts as the symbol to fight,’ said the order, a copy of which was leaked to The Nation newspaper.

The CNS order urged officers to ‘avoid making mistakes since it could spread unrest further.’

Thailand faces a host of political uncertainties in coming months, starting with the outcome of the Constitution Tribunal ruling.

Thereafter a national referendum is planned in late August or September to endorse a new constitution – Thailand\’s 18th since the abolishment of the absolute monarchy in 1932 – a draft of which is currently undergoing amendments.

With the TRT party claiming 14 million members and the Democrats 4 million, the referendum could be easily determined by the two political parties.

If it doesn’t pass, the CNS will push through one of Thailand’s former constitutions which could allow for an appointed prime minister, a means in the past for allowing the military to control the political process.

The CNS has pledged to hold a general election by December, this year, to return power to the people.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday expressed his concerns about the Constitution Tribunal ruling, urging judges to do their duty but noting that the decision would inevitably create unrest.

Bangkok – Thailand’s junta has made preparations to deal with ‘red shirt’ protests against the possible dissolution of the country’s two largest political parties by a constitution tribunal ruling this week, media reports said Sunday.

General Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, leader of the September 19 coup who now heads the Council for National Security (CNS) – as the junta has styled itself – has issued an order to troops in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces to be on alert for protests leading up to the tribunal’s ruling on Wednesday.

The Constitution Tribunal is scheduled to decide whether the Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thais) party, founded by ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the Democrats, which is the kingdom’s oldest political party, committed fraud by attempting to manipulate the outcome of the April 2, 2006, general election.

Strong evidence that the election was manipulated prompted the Supreme Administrative Court to annul the election’s results on May 8, last year, shoving Thailand into a political wildeness it has yet to emerge from.

If found guilty both parties may be dissolved and their executive committees banned from national politics for the next five years, deemed a potentially massive blow to Thailand’s already weakened political party system.

Although leaders of both parties have pledged to accept the court ruling and avoid stirring up unrest in its aftermath, anti-coup groups are expected to start putting pressure on the tribunal prior to Wednesday that may escalate into demonstrations should the ruling disband the parties, or more controversially just disband the Thai Rak Thai party which has a massive following in among the rural poor.

‘We received reports that these supporters, including those who have been hired to cause unrest, have been travelling into the capital from places in the North and North-east,’ said the CNS it its directive to the troops.

‘They reportedly plan to wear red shirts as the symbol to fight,’ said the order, a copy of which was leaked to The Nation newspaper.

The CNS order urged officers to ‘avoid making mistakes since it could spread unrest further.’

Thailand faces a host of political uncertainties in coming months, starting with the outcome of the Constitution Tribunal ruling.

Thereafter a national referendum is planned in late August or September to endorse a new constitution – Thailand’s 18th since the abolishment of the absolute monarchy in 1932 – a draft of which is currently undergoing amendments.

With the TRT party claiming 14 million members and the Democrats 4 million, the referendum could be easily determined by the two political parties.

If it doesn’t pass, the CNS will push through one of Thailand’s former constitutions which could allow for an appointed prime minister, a means in the past for allowing the military to control the political process.

The CNS has pledged to hold a general election by December, this year, to return power to the people.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday expressed his concerns about the Constitution Tribunal ruling, urging judges to do their duty but noting that the decision would inevitably create unrest.

by Monster & Critics UK

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