Red-shirt rally against Constitution Court enters crucial stage

A three-week long rally by red shirts to protest the Constitution Court comes to a climax on Wednesday amid hopes that it will not turn violent.

Police deployed at the Constitution Court on Tuesday keep a watchful eye over the red-shirt rally. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

More members of the "Radio Broadcasters for Democracy" movement were converging at the court at the Government complex on Chaeng Wattana Road on Tuesday.

Their leaders claimed the number would reach 100,000 by Wednesday.

Siriwat Jupamuttha, a coordinator of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) in Phayao, said many were on the way from other provinces by bus and other vehicles to join them in Bangkok.

A small group of red shirts had stayed at the court since April 22 and said the big gathering on Wednesday is a step to pile more pressure on the court.

The red shirts have been protesting in a bid to force the nine judges to step down after the court decided on April 3 to accept for consideration a petition by Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn. The senator asked the court to rule on the legality of the move by 312 MPs and senators to amend Section 68 of the charter.

Section 68 allows people to ask the charter court directly to examine moves that could undermine the constitutional monarchy or grab power through unconstitutional means.

The amendment would require complaints to be lodged first with public prosecutors, an act viewed by Sen Somchai as depriving the public of its right to raise the issue with the court.

The court is seen by the red shirts as a by-product of the 2006 coup makers and they believe the judges are trying to block charter amendments.

The rally will begin at 9am at the court and the red shirts will travel along Vibhavadhi-Rangsit Road and Phahon Yothin Road towards Victory Monument and finally, parliament, to submit their demands for lawmakers to impeach the judges for abusing their authority.

One of their targets is Jaran Pukditanakul, a staunch critic of the red shirts. The protesters will lodge a complaint at the Crime Suppression Division to take action against Mr Jaran, Char Chaiya, a deputy leader of the movement, said.

About 2,500 officers of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB) will be deployed on Wednesday to handle the rally with back-up from the Border Patrol Police and regional police forces, Pol Maj Gen Prinya Chansuriya, the MPB deputy chief, said.

Natthawut Saikuar, a UDD leader, said the protest tomorrow was not related to the group. Protestors came individually to show their stance opposing the judges, he said.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called for a peaceful protest and the cabinet also discussed the issue on Tuesday to assess the situation.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung and National Security Council secretary-general Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanabut agreed that the Internal Security Act will not be announced on Wednesday. They were optimistic that the protest will remain under control.

National police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew supported the decision by Mr Chalerm and the NSC leader. "The enforcement of the Internal Security Act needs a thorough decision. So far there's nothing to worry about. But we will not be careless," he said.

Air force command ACM Prajin Junthong called for a close watch on the rally to ensure that it would be peacefully organised.

Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva warned the prime minister of the consequences of a threat by the red shirts on the court.

They acted as if they were personal forces serving some politicians and that could damage the government, the Democrat Party leader said on the party's Blue Sky channel.

Related search: constitution court, red shirts, udd, judges, , rally, Radio Broadcasters for Democracy

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