Rally tipped to draw diverse protest groups

Rally tipped to draw diverse protest groups

Govt invoking ISA a mistake, source says

A diverse group of anti-government protesters, including disenfranchised upcountry farmers, will turn out at tomorrow's Pitak Siam rally, a political insider has said.

The group led by Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, initially brushed off by the administration as being unworthy of attention, has turned out to be a potent political force which has left the government rattled, the source said.

The source believed the government has made a mistake by invoking the Internal Security Act (ISA), which blocks protesters from the provinces from joining tomorrow's protest at the Royal Plaza.

The imposition of the ISA could invite even more anti-government elements who are angered at the Yingluck Shinawatra administration's alleged corruption and incompetence, the source said.

The Pitak Siam rally not only has the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) as its main supporter, which the government brands as "the same old faces", but several active and retired soldiers will also join the ranks, along with strategic and tactical advisers, the source said.

Several groups have already publicly lent support to Pitak Siam. They include the multi-coloured-shirt group led by Tul Sitthisomwong; the Peace-Loving Thais group led by Kanchanee Walayasevi; the Dhamma Army, which has close links with PAD leader Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang; the Group of People from 16 Southern Provinces led by Sunthorn Rakrong; and a group of state enterprise labour union activists led by Somsak Kosaisuk, a former PAD co-leader.

Several of those groups played an active role in the ousting of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006, before they split and formed their own independent movements.

But there are also other groups that could join the anti-government rally, the source said.

They include the People's Movement for a Just Society (P-move), which consists of landless farmers, displaced people, and those affected by state projects; the Network of Small-Scale Northeastern Farmers; and the Assembly of the Poor.

Even though some leaders of the Assembly of the Poor still support the government, other were being turned by the Yingluck administration's failure to address rural poverty, land problems and issues involving community rights to manage natural resources, the political analyst said.

The government is aware that the Assembly of the Poor may join the Pitak Siam group, so it has set a two-day meeting with them beginning on Wednesday to discuss their differences, the source added.

There are also several groups of people in the South affected by government infrastructure projects, such as the planned nuclear power plant in Chumphon, which are speaking out in opposition of the government.

Leading the anti-government rally tomorrow is expected to be mainly Bangkok residents and supporters of the opposition Democrat Party, many of whom are unhappy with the Yingluck administration. But the source expected a more diverse mix of protester to be present as political discontent grows.

The source said some critics saw the mobilisation of 50,000 security officers, both from Bangkok and from nearby provinces, to cope with the Pitak Siam group as a sign that the rally has unnerved the government.

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