ISA extension on cards if protests persist

CAMPAIGN TO IMPEACH AMNESTY-BACKING MPS STARTS STRONGLY

The Internal Security Act (ISA) could be extended if anti-government demonstrators refuse to end their protest, deputy national police chief Woraphong Chiewpreecha said on Saturday.

An anti-government protester observes police officers' shields on Saturday. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Security authorities will assess the situation and decide whether the ISA should be extended beyond the deadline at the end of the month.

If the Ratchadamnoen Avenue protest goes beyond Nov 30, Pol Gen Woraphong said, security agencies might approach the cabinet to have the ISA extended.

The ISA was invoked on Oct 9 when the People's Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism (Pefot) launched its anti-government campaign. The cabinet approved an extension of the ISA on Oct 18 until Nov 30.

The ISA covers Dusit, Phra Nakhon and Pomprap Sattruphai districts in Bangkok.

It allows the country's top security agency, the Internal Security Operations Command, to impose curfews, operate checkpoints and restrict the movement of demonstrators.

On Friday, ex-Democrat MP and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban declared the rally would be escalated, from protesting against the blanket amnesty bill to "uprooting the Thaksin Shinawatra regime".

Four new anti-government measures were also announced: a signature campaign seeking the impeachment of 310 MPs; blowing whistles at cabinet ministers and Thaksin's "servants"; a boycott of products and services sold by firms affiliated to the Shinawatra business empire; and a general strike by civil servants.

Mr Suthep on Saturday claimed the new measures had been well received.

Thousands of people lined up at a tent at the Democracy Monument to sign documents seeking the MPs' impeachment.

Mr Suthep said many people had already begun to boycott or cancel Shinawatra-related products and services.

Speaking to about 20,000 demonstrators at Saturday's rally, Mr Suthep repeated his claim that the protest would achieve its goal by Nov 30.

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban says he'd rather die than see the country's administration falling into the hands of Thaksin's family members. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

"If Thaksin wins it will mean Thaksin's power will continue to administer the country for several more years. Thais can see that the country's administration will fall into the hands of Thaksin's family members _ from his brother-in-law, his sister and then his children," he said. "I'd rather die than see this happen."

Former Democrat MP for Bangkok and protest spokesman Akanat Promphan yesterday said CCTV cameras had been installed around the protest site to film the campaign to collect signatures and provide evidence to show it is real.

The petition will be submitted to the Senate speaker tomorrow.

Protesters interviewed by Bangkok Post said they backed Mr Suthep's latest strategies to uproot the Thaksin regime.

Benjaporn Saetang, 57, who was queuing to show her ID card and sign her name, said she wanted to expel not only the 310 legislators but anyone else who supported the blanket amnesty bill, which she said would whitewash all charges against Thaksin.

A 58-year-old woman who identified herself only as Rattana said she agreed with all protest measures as they show the public's dissatisfaction with the government's behaviour.

"Many people are now coming out to show their strong intention to impeach the MPs who passed the bill, as only their party will stand to benefit from it, not the people," she said.

"The government keeps saying that it was elected by a majority of the people.

"If that's so, this is the right time for them to listen to the majority."

Saroh Manlin, 57, said: "I have stopped selling goods for several days to join the rally and as an act of protest against the government."

Pheu Thai MP for Amnat Charoen Somying Buabutr was approached by a group of anti-government protesters yesterday who blew whistles at her. The protesters also held anti-amnesty bill posters.

The incident took place as the MP presided over the opening of a student sports event at Amnat Charoen provincial hall.

Ms Somying smiled at the group and calmly got into her car.

A clip of the whistle-blowing attack was shown at the Democracy Monument rally amid loud cheering from the crowd.

Pheu Thai Party deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard yesterday said Mr Suthep appeared to be losing confidence. Escalating the anti-government protests too often could eventually backfire on the movement.

Mr Anusorn said the anti-government rally is now losing steam as it no longer has any justification to continue. The government had promised it would drop the amnesty bill, and most protesters should be happy with that.

About the author

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Writer: Lamphai Intathep
Position: Reporter