About 100,000 anti-government demonstrators rallied in Thailand’s capital on Sunday, demanding that the prime minister step down amid claims that her government is controlled by her older brother, ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The peaceful rally, led by former opposition lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban, appeared to be the largest staged by Thaksin’s opponents in several years.
Organizers are looking for the rally to continue overnight and cause maximum disruption on Monday, when demonstrators are supposed to march all over Bangkok. The protesters say they want to topple the “Thaksin regime,” which is how they refer to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Police estimated that around 75,000 people had arrived at the main rally site by mid-afternoon Sunday, with the total appearing to surpass 100,000 by evening.
“The government is part of the Thaksin regime, but the Thaksin regime has planted its roots deeply in Thailand already,” Suthep told The Associated Press. “It’s a self-centered system that does not follow the law.”
Suthep accused Thaksin of abusing human rights, corruption and interfering with government officials.
Protest organizers said they would march to 12 different Bangkok locations on Monday, including the headquarters of the police and the different branches of the armed forces, and the five television broadcast stations controlled by the military or the government.
Suthep promised that Monday’s march would be peaceful and law-abiding. Suthep and several fellow lawmakers from the opposition Democrat Party recently resigned their parliamentary seats in order to try to avoid their party bearing legal liability from actions taken during the street protests.
“We will tell the government officials to stop serving the Thaksin regime and stand by the people’s side instead,” Suthep said. “We will also march to tell the media to report news with neutrality, without distortion and not to serve the government. They must give people the truth.”
Special peace-keeping command spokesman police Maj. Gen. Piya Uthayo said earlier that intelligence reports indicated that the protesters would move to surround key Bangkok locations, including the prime minister’s office and Parliament.
Suthep had also suggested that sympathizers in public utility jobs might cut water and electricity to government offices and top officials.
A smaller group of about 30,000 pro-government Red Shirt demonstrators gathered Sunday to support Yingluck’s administration.
The latest round of street demonstrations was triggered in October by a government-backed bill that could have granted amnesty to Thaksin, who is seeking to return home without serving a two-year jail sentence for corruption, a conviction that he says was politically inspired. He now lives mainly in Dubai, but is seen as still being in control of his political machine.
The new protests forced the government to abandon the amnesty effort, at least temporarily.
Yingluck’s administration suffered another political defeat last week when the country’s Constitutional Court ruled illegal a bill backed by her government amending the constitution to mandate that all, rather than half, the members of the Senate be directly elected.
The Democrat Party is vastly outnumbered by the absolute majority held by Yingluck’s Pheu Thai Party, but it is seeking to pressure Yingluck’s government through several extra-parliamentary means, including impeaching its lawmakers. However, it will also lead a no-confidence debate in the lower house this week.
About 100,000 anti-government protesters gathered in Thailand’s capital on Sunday, as simmering tensions between Bangkok’s middle classes and the mostly rural supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra threatened to boil over.
Observers say Suthep could be holding out for military or judicial intervention. Thai courts brought down two Thaksin-aligned governments in 2008.
“We have not yet reached crisis point like in 2006 so the military would be unwise to intervene at this juncture and Suthep should know this, but he might be waiting for some form of judicial intervention,” said Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University.
“We are going to see ongoing tension,” said analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak, of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University.
“The anti-government protests are strong enough now to stymie government policy work and without the ability to get policy work done, I think that we are beginning to see the new electoral cycle in motion,” Thitinan said.
Estimates of the number of protesters yesterday varied, with security sources citing a figure of around 100,000 and a spokesman for the Democracy Monument rally putting the number at 440,000 in the late afternoon with more expected in the evening.
The Bangkok Post had an article with the headline “Tens of thousands join anti-government rally”
Anti-government protesters estimated in the hundreds of thousands have joined Sunday’s rally at the Democracy Monument with organisers still hoping the number will swell to one million.
Ekkanat Prompan, a spokesman for the Democrat Party-led rally, said more than 400,000 people had joined the protest since Sunday afternoon and the number should increase to one million by the evening.
“Protest core members have made a million stickers to give to the people who take part in our rally and over 440,000 have already been given out to the public from Sanam Luang to Larn Luang,” Mr Ekkanat said.
“I arrived yesterday in a convoy of about 40 buses from Krabi province,” said Wilawan Kayathan, 53, a Thai Muslim. “We want to get Yingluck (Shinawatra) out and bring in a new government. This government is untrustworthy,” she said.
BP: Although, the front of the Web site is claiming the 440,000 a fact….
btw, a lot of protesters bussed in and private vehicles from the South…
A later article from the Bangkok Post:
Mr Suthep cerebrated his “one million people” rally yesterday. He claimed more than one million people were present at the protest, while police estimated 98,000, and a military intelligence unit, 150,000 people
BP: Some comments:
1. On the numbers,* the protest is so big and hence a single picture makes it difficult to see how many protesters with people on side streets etc (the protests are in excess of 4 kilometres long). Based on previous estimates of the recent rallies, when they were much smaller and easier to estimate, BP found the police were out by around 50%. Hence, if this was to apply here, we are in line with the military intelligence estimates of 150,000.
Comparing with photos from 2010, when the reds got around 150,000 protesters, it seems, in BP’s view, the anti-Thakin/government protesters got slightly more than the reds did back then although not by much and certainly under 175,000.
2. Regardless of the actual numbers and who you believe, this is the largest anti-Thaksin and government protest ever by some distance. Bigger than in 2006 and 2008 and in BP’s view, slightly bigger than the reds in 2010. This is a massive turnout and there will be political ramifications.
3. What is the government to do? Under Section 158 of the Constitution, and because of the filing of the no-confidence debate against the PM, she is prohibited from dissolving the House. The Bangkok Post:
Former Democrat MP Suthep Thaugsuban said the ultimate goal of the protest is to uproot the Thaksin regime and the protest will not end unless the goal is achieved.
“We won’t stop even if [premier] Yingluck Shinawatra resigns or the House is dissolved,” Mr Suthep told the crowd, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands.
“Our demonstration will continue until we can get rid of the Thaksin regime.”
However, Mr Suthep maintained that the battle would not last long. “This battle will end in three days,” he said.
BP: The no-confidence debate is scheduled to be held November 26-27 with the vote on November 28. Because of the overwhelming numbers, not just by Puea Thai, but by the coalition itself it would have to involve some outside intervention to reduce the numbers. The Nation on the impeachment of MPs and Senators who voted for the constitutional amendment:
After the court ruled that the process of carrying out the amendment and the amendment itself were unconstitutional, the Democrats filed an impeachment motion and criminal charges against the government.
Academic and analyst Dr Wirapat Pariyawong has advised the NACC to base its decision on the facts rather than on the ruling, which he said was based on the judges’ interpretation of the |charter.
“There are certain facts that the NACC needs to verify, such as those concerning the allegations that the draft bill was falsified and certain lawmakers used their peers’ |electronic ID cards to vote on their behalf,” Wirapat said.
He said the NACC would have to identify those MPs or senators who committed the offence and would have to prove also that the offence was committed intentionally.
Wirapat also voiced concerns about a possible political vacuum, if the NACC finds grounds to indict the lawmakers, because they would be immediately suspended from their duties.
In addition, those MPs and |senators facing indictment are not allowed to take part in any voting until the Senate votes on whether or not to impeach them.
“Suppose 50 senators who sponsored the amendment bill are suspended from duty following the NACC’s decision, I think the remaining senators would start playing games once the impeachment motion [of the 50 suspended] reached the Senate,” Wirapat said.
“The senators could potentially avoid the vote, so that a quorum could not be reached, and this would leave those MPs and senators in a state of suspension – resulting in a political vacuum.”
Wirapat said the vacuum might force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to dissolve the House and call a snap election, although she might be hesitant to do so.
Wirapat, therefore, believes a political impasse may ensue if a large number of MPs and senators were suspended from duty following the NACC’s probe.
He explained that Yingluck would not dare to resign either, because if she did, the Democrats would have a chance to fight for the premiership.
BP: Normally, the NACC process takes months, if not years so am unsure how the NACC will be able to conduct a probe and then suspend everyone within a few days (others have not been suspended in the past and it is not automatic). Later down the track this is a possibility and is another reason why Yingluck may not dissolve parliament or resign, but within a couple of days?
4. Suthep & Co are going to Air Force HQ, Army HQ, Navy HQ, Police HQ, Interior Ministry, Budget Bureau (led by Suthep himself), Channels 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 today.
BP: Now the test is how many will turn up for day two of the Suthep Rally 3.0. It is a Monday now not a weekend. BP would imagine we will still get a reasonable turnout on the Monday, but that it would diminish for daytime walking rallies beyond this. What will the protesters do when they get there?
btw, not going to DSI??? Is Tharit back on Suthep’s Christmas card list????!!!
*Kom Chad Leuk (sister paper of The Nation) states that CNN Breaking News reported there were 2 million protesters (ขณะที่สำนักข่าว CNN Breaking News (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1063664?ref=feeds%2Flatest) ได้รายงานว่า มีผู้ชุมนุมประท้วงขับไล่รัฐบาลและพ.ต.ท.ทักษิณ ชินวัตร อดีตนายกรัฐมนตรีพี่ชายของน.ส.ยิ่งลักษณ์ ชินวัตร นายกรัฐมนตรีคนปัจจุบันมากกว่า 2,000,000 คน)
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BP: Not fact-checked? A check of the CNN iReport shows it states 1 million protesters and not more than 2 million as Kom Chad Luek stated and we have the “not vetted by CNN” stamp and another clear text statement stating this clearly shown on the page. Wonder what fact-checking went into that report….