Give us a break!

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The mass protest planned this Sunday by the UDD is totally unjustified and unnecessary as it is for the vested interest of just a single individual, exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

It’s clear the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has no intention whatsoever of allowing the general public and the Democrat-led government in particular any peace of mind at all, not even for a short time.

Following the mass rally on Aug 17 to dramatise the submission of the petition to HM the King seeking a royal pardon for the former prime minister, the UDD now plans a mass anti-government protest at the Royal Plaza,  Bangkok, this Sunday, Aug 30.

It is not known whether the protest will be brief or prolonged, or whether the protesters will lay siege to Government House as they did during their protest in April, but the government has taken precautions to deal with the situation.

One option to deal with unruly protesters is to invoke the internal Security Act, which was used in Phuket for the Asean meetings last month, and the cabinet meeting today agreed to its use in Dusit district from Aug 29 to Sept 1.

On top of that, 21 companies of army troops, numbering about 2,000 men, will be put on standby in the barracks to provide backup, if needed, for police who will play the key role in maintaining peace and order.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva hinted on Monday that the security law might be invoked as a precaution, in case the UDD protest turns violent.

He made it clear that the Internal Security Act was different from the emergency decree invoked to deal with the violence by the red-shirted mob in Bangkok during the Songkran festival in April.

The prime minister said he didn’t mind if the protest was prolonged, so long as it was peaceful.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, in charge of security, confirmed before Tuesday’s cabinet  meeting he would propose the use of the Internal Security Act.

The government’s plan to deal with the red-shirts is opposed, not surprisingly, by the opposition Puea Thai party.  Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit asked the prime minister on Monday to reconsider, saying that third-hand elements might try to create trouble during the protest and put the blame on the protesters.

Senate Speaker Prasobsook Boondej also voiced reservations, warning that it might cause public panic and affect the country’s image overseas.

By law, the UDD has the right to rally in protest if it feels the government has failed in its performance.

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But it is obliged to keep the protest peaceful and orderly, and not cause hardship or suffering for the general public.  The UDD leaders must be reminded that a repeat of the violence in  April by red-shirted mobs will not be tolerated and would be strictly dealt with, in accordance with the letter of the law.

But despite it being the UDD’s basic right, is Sunday’s mass rally really necessary at all?

Is it meant for the good of the country and the people?  Or is it meant solely to benefit the vested interests of just a single individual, Thaksin?

If so, and that would seem to be the case, the planned Aug 30 rally is one protest too many – it’s pointless, unjustified and irksomely boring.

Give us a break!

Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul

Bangkok Post/ Opinion  Published: 25/08/2009

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