Rally venue denial ruffles Pheu Thai

Rally venue denial ruffles Pheu Thai

Hundreds gather near stadium instead

PHAYAO: Pheu Thai executives cried "political persecution" yesterday after the provincial administration suddenly refused to allow the party to use a sports stadium for a campaign rally.

Hundreds of residents wanting to attend the Pheu Thai rally at the Provincial Administration Organisation's (PAO) sports stadium found themselves barred from entering as the arena was cordoned off with rope and a sign which read "no entry''.

The crowd, numbering between 800 to 1,000 from 166 villages in Dok Kham Tai and Phu Kam Yao districts were left with no choice but to gather on the road in front of the stadium. Around 9am, Pheu Thai executives led by Ladawan Wongsriwong, the party spokeswoman, took turns making speeches from the back of a pickup truck, which had been converted into a substitute campaign stage.

Ms Ladawan, a former Pheu Thai MP for Phayao, lashed out at the PAO for its action, saying she had never seen anything like it since entering politics. It was an act of "political persecution" and damaged the feelings of the people. She questioned the PAO's claim that allowing the Pheu Thai to hold a rally at the sports stadium would give the party an unfair advantage over other political parties.

She wanted to send a message to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Phayao governor that the party and its supporters were treated unjustly. Ms Ladawan demanded the PAO chairman explain the real reason behind the refusal of the use of a stadium. The PAO had sent an urgent letter on Jan 9 to Pairoj Tanbanjong, a potential Pheu Thai candidate in the province, withdrawing permission previously granted to use the sports stadium for a rally on Jan 10. Mr Pairpoj said he received the notice on Wednesday night.

The letter, signed by PAO deputy chairman Sawat Homnan, argued that use of a government venue by a political party could give it a political advantage over other parties. Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, chief of Pheu Thai's strategy committee, said on Facebook that the issue came to her attention when someone with power in Bangkok ordered senior officials in Phayao not to permit Pheu Thai people to speak at a campaign rally.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday denied any knowledge of the Phayao PAO's abrupt decision. Gen Prawit, also defence minister, insisted he was not aware of the matter. However, he believed the PAO acted according to the law.

When it was pointed out that the Palang Pracharat Party had held a campaign rally at a government venue in Phayao, he said it was a local issue for each area to decide on.

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