UDD warns of big show for Yingluck
Govt urged not to block court
The red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) has called on the government to avoid prohibiting supporters of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from gathering at a court next month, saying this could invite confrontation.
The Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions said on Friday that it will rule on Aug 25 whether Ms Yingluck is guilty of dereliction of duty in handling her government's rice-pledging scheme. The former premier is scheduled to deliver her closing statement verbally on Aug 1.
Almost 1,000 supporters turned up to show her support at court on Friday when she attended her final witness hearing. Speculation has flared that a huge number of her supporters will turn up to show their moral support next month.
Red-shirt leader Weng Tojirakarn said on Saturday that threats by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha against Ms Yingluck's supporters ahead of Friday's court appearance triggered a huge turnout of her supporters on that day.
The supporters were already willing to give Ms Yingluck encouragement and when the government tried to block them, they came out en masse.
"I want to give some thought to Gen Prayut that on Aug 1 and 25 he should not prohibit people from coming again, otherwise the turnout will be bigger than Friday and the handling [of people] in front of the court will be difficult," said Mr Weng.
"If mistakes happen, the government would cause damage to itself."
Somkid Cheukong, a former Pheu Thai MP for Ubon Ratchathani, said Ms Yingluck's supporters came to the court to merely give encouragement to the former premier, not to put pressure on the court.
The prohibition of the gathering could trigger a bigger turnout, he said, insisting there was no one mobilising people to come to the court.
Meanwhile, a National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) source said a huge number of people are expected at the Aug 25 event. The source said the NCPO would deploy soldiers to create understanding among locals and would ask them to follow the situation at home.
They will be told not to come to the court because it could disturb court proceedings and cause traffic congestion, the source noted.
"Chiefs of four army regions have instructed forces to keep tabs on all political movements to ensure order," the NCPO source said.
If there are any activities that support the mass transfer of people to Bangkok, forces would be deployed to talk and boost people's understanding, the source said, adding they would be asked not to use a mass gathering to put pressure on the justice process.
"Personnel will also be deployed to meet local community leaders to ask them to create understanding among people," the source said.
Army chief Chalermchai Sitthisad, who is also secretary-general of the NCPO, has told forces to keep tabs on movements from all parties in the month leading up to Aug 25, the source added.
Meanwhile, senior figures in the NCPO believe Ms Yingluck will not flee ahead of the court's ruling.
"Had she wanted to flee, she would have done so long ago," another source said. "She may want to be in jail, which would affect the image of the NCPO in the view of foreigners."
Meanwhile, National Legislative Assembly member Somchai Sawaengkarn said he had received information that efforts have been made to mobilise people from the North, Northeast and Bangkok's surrounding provinces to come to Bangkok on Aug 1 and 25.
The mobilisation was being done through former MPs, local politicians and provincial administration organisation members, he said.
Leaders of political groups will also launch a campaign against Gen Prayut and the justice process via social media, Mr Somchai said, noting these people should let the justice process run its course.
He called on the government to enforce a "no rally zone" in a 5km radius of the court.