PAD plan protest for Monday; Thai political crisis ongoing

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Thailand’s People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) announced a planned rally this coming Monday at the national stadium and march to police headquarters in protest at action taken against demonstrators last Tuesday. Tuesday’s protest, where attempts were made to block MPs access to and from parliament, turned ugly when police employed tear gas and other measures to disperse the PAD crowd. Two protesters died, over four hundred were injured, and reports indicate that as many as ten may be missing. The ongoing protests and demonstrations are aimed at toppling the governing People’s Power Party (PPP) who are accused of being a proxy for deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s outlawed Thai Rak Thai party.

Friday saw the remaining seven PAD protest leaders surrender to police and be issued on bail. Leaders Chamlong Srimuang and Chaiwat Sinuwong were also bailed, having been arrested and detained earlier. This follows the charges of treason being thrown out by the country’s appeals court; lesser charges, including inciting unrest, still stand.

The activist political group, founded by media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul has occupied Government house for some time now, their demands are for a revision of the Thai political landscape which would see professionals and those in the more prosperous parts of the country a bigger say in the government. Outstanding charges of corruption against Thaksin Shinawatra who the military removed from power in September 2007 are the result of Sondhi and the PAD’s long-standing battle against what they view as vote-buying populist policies. Questionable land deals and allegations of neoptism saw an increasing number of people becoming involved in protests prior to the 2007 coup.

The ongoing crisis has impacted the country both domestically and internationally. The deputy prime minister, Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned on Friday for his part in ordering the police into action against protesters blockading parliament. In an interview with the Bangkok Post, the former general implied the solution – once again – lies with the army, and suggested a second coup may be the only solution to the crisis. Army chief, Anupong Paochinda, faced scorn from the PAD following his dismissal of the call for a second coup; this despite his issuing harsh criticism of the current administration.

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On the international front, Thailand’s troubles saw the Prime Minister, Somchai Wongsawat, cancel a number of foreign visits. The beleaguered PM had planned to visit five ASEAN partner countries in a tour that would have started next week. Additional trips to Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar (formerly Burma) were cancelled. According to a member of the PPP this is due to the current unrest.

Adding to the woes of the ruling PPP, the Attorney General’s office has asked for a ruling from the country’s Constitutional Court outlawing the People’s Power Party. Office spokesman, Thanapit Mulpruek, outlined the content of the petition specifying that the key 37 leaders of the PPP should have their voting rights revoked for five years in light of the allegations of election fraud, or knowingly allowing such to continue. The party’s former deputy leader was disqualified during the December 2007 general election, being accused of graft. The party’s members of parliament are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss this issue and the ongoing political crisis.

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