Sunday, April 26, 2009


Red shirts to protest every week

Bangkok Post

The red shirt protesters of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship will hold weekly demonstrations and set up an assembly in a fresh effort to topple the Democrat-led government.

The strategy was unveiled by UDD leaders in front of 5,000 protesters gathering at Sanam Luang yesterday.

It was the first rally by the supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra since the Songkran melee and the lifting of the state of emergency.

"We have to think about a new strategy to fight for our causes because we were unable to achieve political change simply by holding mass demonstrations," said UDD leader Jaran Dithapichai.

The UDD will rally every Saturday in one of 15 provinces, including Lop Buri, Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Udon Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat and Phatthalung, said another leader Somyos Prueksakasemsuk.

Another major demonstration will be held on May 17 in Bangkok to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Black May incident in 1992, he added.

The assembly will comprise red shirt representatives from every province.

Yesterday's rally, which ended about 11pm, was broadcast live via websites run by overseas red shirt supporters. The three UDD leaders - Veera Musikaphong, Natthawut Saikua and Weng Tojirakarn - who were released on bail of 500,000 baht each on Friday, did not show up. There was no phone-in from Thaksin.

The organisers showed a video clip of soldiers cracking down on the red shirts in Din Daeng on April 13. Demonstrators at Sanam Luang showed anger at the army.

Mr Jaran demanded the government immediately release all red shirt leaders and demonstrators and set up an independent panel to investigate the clampdown on red shirt demonstrators during the Songkran riots.

He also called on the government to unblock the signal of UDD's television broadcaster, DStation, and allow all pro-UDD community radio stations to resume broadcasting.

Pongthep Thepkanchana, who appeared on stage but did not make any statement to the protesters, told reporters that the government, opposition bloc, People's Alliance for Democracy, UDD and media should be allowed to submit a list of their representatives to sit on the probe committee to ensure fairness and neutrality. About half of the demonstrators opted not to wear red shirts to the rally yesterday, for safety reasons.

Prathum Wangklan, a 51-year-old Bangkok vendor, said he joined the rally because he did not believe media reports about the political situation.

"I have to come here to listen to the truth," said Mr Prathum. "The harder the government tries to suppress the red shirt movement, the more people will join the demonstration," he added.

Jittima Fuksa-ard, 45, from Prachin Buri, said she attended the rally because she was still upset with the violent crackdown on red shirts at Din Daeng.

"I was there [at the pre-dawn raid] and my friend was badly hurt by authorities," she said.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has instructed security officers to monitor the UDD movement and ask the demonstrators to make sure their rallies stay within the law.

Metropolitan police chief Pol Lt Gen Vorapong Chiewpreecha has set up 40 checkpoints, manned by police and soldiers, in inner Bangkok. A special checkpoint was also set up in each area to search for weapons and explosives among those wanting to join the UDD rally at Sanam Luang.

Another rally was in Udon Thani where 300 members showed up at Thung Si Muang. The rally was held to allow red shirts taking part during April 8-11 rallies in Bangkok to talk about what happened.

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