Protesters converge at Democracy Monument

Demonstrators are occupying Ratchadamnoen Avenue from Democracy Monument to Phanfa Bridge in what is expected to be the largest rally since the House of Representatives passed the blanket amnesty bill.

Anti-government protesters are occupying Ratchadamnoen Avenue from Democracy Monument to Phanfa Bridge on Monday. (Photo by Sithikorn Wongwudthianun)

Protesters led by the opposition Democrat Party were reinforced by four other groups on Monday hours ahead of the 6pm deadline for the bill to be removed from parliament. The deadline was set by the Democrat's protest leader and MP for Surat Thani, Suthep Thaugsuban. Mr Suthep has said he will tender his resignation as an MP tomorrow to fully lead further protests.

In Silom, demonstrators led by Dr Tul Sitthisomwang, leader of the anti-government multi-coloured shirts group, marched in protest to police headquarters in Pathumwan before moving on to Democracy Monumen at Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue. 

Another group of protesters met at Asoke and stopped at police HQ before marching on to the monument. Two others rallying at Ratchadaphisek and Saphan Kwai were also making their way to the opposition's protest site.

''Today is very important. We want all people to come out to show their power,'' said Ekkanut Promphan, rally spokesman for the Democrats. The rally will be peaceful, he added.

Another key protest group led by the Anti-Thaksin coalition and the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand vowed to stay put nearby at Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue and Makkawan Rangsan Bridge.

The group has decided to stay where it is while it maps out its next move, Nitithorn Lamluea, an advisor to the network, said.

The large gathering of disparate protest groups comes as the Senate deliberates the controversial amnesty bill. 

Senators have been discussing the bill since 10am. The session could go on until around 11pm, Senate Speaker Nikhom Wairatpanich said before the meeting began. If it does draw on into the evening, Mr Suthep's 6pm deadline to have the bill removed from parliament would be missed.

Another contentious issue drawing protesters onto the streets is the International Court of Justice ruling on the disputed area around Preah Vihear Temple by in The Hague.

Chamlong Srimuang and Sondhi Limthongkul, two former leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy, have been speaking out on the issue.

Maj Gen Chamlong, who is now a representative of the Dhamma Army, announced at a press conference that the group would not accept the ICJ's ruling.

He and Mr Sondhi said the country needed major reform and the amnesty bill was only one of the many problems to be tackled.

Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri and Tarit Pengdith, chief of the Department of Special Investigation, renewed their call for the protests to end, given that government has agreed not to push the blanket amnesty bill through parliament, and has withdrawn all other draft amnesty-related bills.

The demonstrators are committing ''serious'' wrongdoing by using the rallies as an attempt to overthrow the government, Mr Chaikasem said.

Related search: Democracy Monument, Ratchadamnoen, Preah Vihear, protest, amnesty bill, rally, Democrat Party, multi-coloured shirts,

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