Rounding up every supporter
The UDD is pulling out all the stops and using every trick it can to pad its rally today - Thaksin is refusing to go quietly as the odds grow stronger against him - Suing Constitutional Court judges could backfire on the red shirts
The chairman of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, Jatuporn Prompan, has pledged to mobilise 500,000 red-shirt supporters for the UDD’s rally today.
Jatuporn: Expecting half a million people
He said the UDD would camp on Utthayan Road, formerly known as Aksa Road, in western Bangkok for two to three days.
The road serves as a link between Phutthamonthon Sai 3 and Phutthamonthon Sai 4 roads.
The rally is touted as a major showdown with the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the ammart (elite) whom Mr Jatuporn believes are behind the anti-government group.
The hype surrounding the showdown has many worried about a confrontation between the two opposing groups, which could culminate in violence and civil war.
Even the army chief has said he does not want the situation to get out of hand, which might necessitate the invocation of martial law.
However, the PDRC says it remains to be seen if the UDD’s rally will live up to the hype.
Previously, the UDD held regular rallies in those provinces which are its main strongholds — Ayutthaya, Nakhon Ratchasima and Chon Buri. But these rallies did not attract huge turnouts.
The renowned political caricaturist and cartoonist Somchai Katanyutanan, better known as Chai Ratchawat, took to his Facebook page to deride the UDD’s rally today.
“I want April 5 to arrive quickly. I want to see the red shirts march into Bangkok to outnumber the PDRC’s supporters.
“I want to see a procession of professional groups such as doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, artists, all wearing red following the leaders Tu [the nickname of Mr Jatuporn] and Ten [UDD secretary-general Nattawut Saikuar], with a tailback stretching 50-60 kilometres,” Somchai said sarcastically.
To prevent derision, Pheu Thai Party politicians — as well as winning candidates in the recent Senate election — have been instructed to mobilise people to join the red-shirt rally.
A party source said senators-elect with links to Pheu Thai, believed to number around 40, were each told to bring at least 500 people to the weekend rally while party politicians were each ordered to bring at least 100 people from each constituency under their control.
The senators-elect known to be aligned with Pheu Thai have the backing of the party and must mobilise voters who supported them in the Senate poll to join the rally, a party source said.
The UDD itself is trying to step up the rhetoric in its fight against what it perceives to be injustices by independent organisations.
A UDD co-leader who mobilised people to join the UDD-led rally in Bangkok in 2010 said that this time he had to ask local politicians to gather local support for him. This is because UDD leaders had quarrelled with Pheu Thai politicians over plans to drum up support.
The source said national politicians were reluctant to bring out local people because they had to advance the “means” first.
“But this time is different. Many locals disagree with the red-shirt rallies, particularly rice farmers, who are angry with the government as they have not yet received long-overdue payments for their pledged rice,” the source said.
However, the source said, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung recently also sought “cooperation” from owners of factories in tambon Mahachai and Om Noi municipality in Samut Sakhon, which are enclaves of foreign labourers chiefly from Myanmar.
Factory owners were “asked to cooperate” by allowing their foreign factory workers to join the UDD rally. The Department of Employment last month eased curbs on Myanmar workers who overstay their working visas pending the new administration.
Defiant as the cards fall
In his recent address to the Pheu Thai Party’s internal affairs committee via Skype, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra bemoaned how groups were ganging up on the government, but there was no element of surrender at all in his hour-long speech.
His younger sister, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, and her government have legal disputes up to their necks, and the challenges in the Constitutional Court indicate the Pheu Thai-led administration has done things all wrong.
The two-trillion-baht borrowing bill which would authorise the Finance Ministry to seek loans for infrastructure development projects has been ruled by the court as unconstitutional — a decision Ms Yingluck says is a lost opportunity for the country.
Thaksin: Planning to turn the tables
Earlier, the court ruled against the government-sponsored charter amendment draft seeking to change the Senate make-up. Facing the consequences is a group of 308 former MPs and senators who voted in favour of the draft.
With the Constitutional Court’s fresh decision to consider a petition accusing Ms Yingluck for breaching the constitution over the Thawil Pliensri case, the caretaker government is on the ropes.
Tension is starting to build after the Constitutional Court agreed to rule on the status of Ms Yingluck over the removal order she issued against National Security Council (NSC) chief Thawil.
If the court rules against her, the political landscape will change and that could play into the hands of anti-government demonstrators who are demanding reforms before a general election. Her administration will have to step down, and without a House of Representatives to select a new prime minister, Section 7 to find a new leader — which is much feared by Pheu Thai — will become a serious option.
According to a source in the meeting, Thaksin’s tone of voice suggested the former prime minister knows full well the kind of game his political opponents are playing. For Thaksin, his opponents and the Constitutional Court are collaborating to keep him and anything relating to him away from power.
“Things are turning out exactly as planned. Our allies are shrinking by the day,” he was quoted as telling the meeting.
According to Thaksin, the worst thing happening in the current struggle is that national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew has apparently defected to the opposing camp. The government is losing control over the police force which was once under its thumb.
But Thaksin is not a quitter. He has laid out a scheme to turn the tables on those plotting his downfall. The pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship is expected to turn up the pressure.
He plans to have red shirts lodge complaints against Constitutional Court judges and graft fighters who have never “ruled in favour” of the government.
The campaign will go in parallel with caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul’s efforts to engage the international community in the country’s affairs.
Mr Surapong has invited diplomats to many briefings on the political situation and mentioned how concerned they are about the turmoil and the delayed election. Thaksin’s legal aid, Noppadon Pattama, is assisting Mr Surapong.
If all fails, Thaksin will turn to his last resort — petitioning His Majesty for fairness for his sister.
“So when all is left is the red shirts, it’s important to see the plan through,” Thaksin was quoted as saying.
The risk of filing charges
The red shirts meant business when they came out en masse on the so-called “National Criminal Charge-Filing Day” on April’s Fool Day.
Red shirts in Bangkok and a number of provinces lodged complaints with the local police against seven Constitutional Court judges, including the court president, for invalidating the Feb 2 general election. They were the majority judges who voted in favour of the invalidation.
They also mounted a mass signature campaign seeking the removal of Election Commission member Somchai Srisuttiyakorn, whom some red shirts criticised for allegedly being instrumental in the EC’s perceived “half-hearted” moves to organise the general election.
The impeachment and the charge filing moves went ahead on April 1. And they were not done in jest on April’s Fool Day.
But the mass filing of the charges, made by the red shirts in response to what they called a twisting of the arms of democracy, does carry a consequence. The complainants themselves could find themselves being slapped with counter suits.
The red shirts insist the invalidation of the poll was unfair to the millions who had cast their ballots on Feb 2. It was a trampling of their right to vote, they charged.
The six Constitutional Court judges who voted to annul the poll were the court president Charoon Intachan, Jarun Pukditanakul, Nurak Marpraneet, Boonsong Kulbupar, Suphot Khaimuk and Twekiat Menakanist.
The three minority judges who voted against the invalidation were Chut Chonlavorn, Udomsak Nitimontree and Chalermpon Ake-uru.
The red shirts also submitted legal charges against the ombudsman who petitioned the Constitutional Court to have the poll cancelled. They alleged the ombudsman had abused his authority for forwarding the petition to the court when the law does not allow it to do so. The Constitutional Court also was in no position to admit the case filed by the ombudsman either.
The mass charge filling was made in Bangkok and many provinces in the North, Northeast and the East. The provinces include Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Chachoengsao, Mahasarakham, Nakhon Pathom, Chaiyaphum, Udon Thani and Ubon Ratchathani.
The move was hailed as a bold exercise of democratic rights by red-shirt sympathisers. Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (Capo) director Chalerm Yubamrung said it was right for the people to act and protect their mandate expressed through voting, as guaranteed by the constitution.
However, the red shirts have been warned by the Democrat Party that their political offensive against the Constitutional Court, the EC member and the ombudsman could eventually put them on the defensive.
The party’s legal team said the red shirts should not let themselves be used as political tools to undermine the Constitutional Court.
They run a real risk of being counter-sued by the Constitutional Court judges for giving false statements, which is a criminal offence, and libel. The team insist the judges did not perform their duties in any way that violated the constitution as alleged.
Every step of the proceedings leading to the invalidation of the poll complied with the law and the ruling by the Constitutional Court was legally binding on all entities, the team said.