Red shirts may wait until Asean summit
The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship is expected to put off its anti-government protests until the next round of Asean meetings in October, say senior Democrat Party members.
Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks said the postponement of yesterday’s gathering might indicate the pro-Thaksin red shirt group would try to embarrass the government during the Asean summit, scheduled for Oct 23 to 25, in the resort areas of Cha-am in Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin.
Dr Buranaj said the government’s standing in the international community had been tarnished in April when it failed to prevent the red shirts from storming the Asean summit venue at a resort hotel in Pattaya, forcing the participating national leaders to make a hurried departure. UDD co-leader Jatuporn Prompan yesterday said his group would reschedule its rally for each succeeding Saturday of September – it now plans to meet next Saturday, Sept 5 – if the government insisted on exercising the Internal Security Act (ISA) every time the red shirts planned to rally.
But he said it would not push its rally beyond Sept 19, which marks the third anniversary of the coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government in 2006.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said he had no problem with a UDD rally as long as the protesters did not break the law. He said the ISA did not ban peaceful rallies, but it did provide for military officers to help police to keep order.
“So I have to ask the rally-goers why they have a problem with the government’s request for a peaceful protest,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who oversees security issues, said in Surat Thani he would suggest at the cabinet meeting tomorrow that the ISA enforcement be extended because “the situation is still unreliable”.
He said the government needed to impose strict controls on the red shirt protest to prevent a recurrence of the Pattaya raid and Bangkok street riots “caused by UDD supporters in April”.
Mr Abhisit promised the ISA, to be invoked during the Asean summit in October, would not affect foreign investment as it aimed to ensure a pleasant atmosphere in the country.
Puea Thai Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the enforcement of the ISA would not end the problem and would continue to dissatisfy protesters.
However, a recent poll conducted by Suan Dusit Rajabhat University showed 76% of 1,078 Bangkokians surveyed support the ISA.
In another development, Dr Buranaj yesterday called on the UDD, Thaksin’s spokesman Pongthep Thepkanchana and the Puea Thai Party to be held jointly responsible for the alleged doctoring of an audio clip of Mr Abhisit speaking.
The spokesman accused the UDD of supporting the dissemination of the clip through CDs and said the Puea Thai Party was responsible for leaking it to the media.
He said Mr Pongthep should be condemned for his statements in an interview in which he said the audio clip “is an unusual event and should be considered as a joke or junk email”.
But the clip, which portrays Mr Abhisit as advocating violence against red shirt rioters in April, was viewed by the government as a threat to the nation as it would deepen the social divisions.
People or organisations involved in producing or distributing the clip would face a five-year jail term under the Computer Act, Dr Buranaj said. Punishment for defamation is seven years in jail.
Mr Abhisit yesterday warned against attempts to disseminate the clip, which would clearly violate the Computer Act.
The 111 Foundation, supported by 111 banned former members of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party, were at risk as it had reportedly distributed the clip, he said
Bangkok Post, 31/08/2009