Thousands of people joined a rally against the planned amnesty outside a railway station in Bangkok on Thursday evening, some wearing bandanas reading “Fight” and waving clappers with the slogan “Stop the amnesty for corrupt people.”
“If a murderer kills someone and later he gets an amnesty, then the country will not be peaceful,” said Surapol Srimawong, 56, from the northeastern province of Korat.
“It would mean any leader can kill whoever and after killing he can issue the amnesty bill, then it would be terrible.”
According to national police spokesman Piya Uthayo, around 6,500 people joined the rally organized by the opposition Democrat Party.
The Nation with an article with a time stamp of 17:49 (so assume after the AFP article):
By Thursday evening, some 8,000 protesters, mostly from Bangkok, gathered at the Samsen railway station to join a Democrat Party-led protest against the amnesty bill, police said.
Police Maj-General Piya Uthayo, spokesman for the government’s Peacekeeping Operations Centre said the figure was estimated by the Special Branch police.
The Bangkok Post:
At least 10,000 people joined the Democrat Party-engineered rally in Samsen on Thursday evening against attempts to pass a blanket amnesty, as lawmakers began deliberating the bill in parliament.
Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew estimated the protesters could top 30,000, most of them from several areas in Bangkok. But he was confident that police numbers were enough to handle the rally. The police chief has ordered all police units to be on alert to coordinate with other government agencies to cope with any situation.
Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha called for a peaceful settlement to the political standoff and said the army would not get involved in the demonstration. He ruled out a military coup to solve the problem, as the political division was being deepened by the Pheu Thai Party bill, which had been revised to include convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Pol Gen Vasit Dejkunjorn, a co-founder of the Thai Spring movement, was on the stage with the opposition party to show his opposition to the “Thaksin regime” and urged all Thais to come out to unite against it.
About 10,000 people demonstrated during the evening event, that was organized by the opposition Democrat Party, over the bill which is causing outrage as it is seen as benefitting the former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
Several thousand protesters on Thursday joined a mass rally led by the main opposition Democrat Party against an amnesty bill proposed by the ruling party.
The rally was joined by civil society groups and Democrat Party supporters, who are calling on the government to retract the bill.
Debate on the bill is underway at the parliament amid tight security, and it is expected to pass the final reading this weekend.
Thousands of protesters rallied in the Thai capital as Parliament debated a controversial amnesty bill that would allow former leader Thaksin Shinawatra to return home without serving a jail term.
Crowds packed the street next to Samsen railway station in central Bangkok in a rally organized by the main opposition Democrat Party on Thursday evening. The Democrats threatened a prolonged protest if the government doesn’t withdraw the bill, which they say is intended only to serve Mr. Thaksin.
“We will fight against the bill until we win,” said Sathit Wongnongtoey, a Democrat Party executive. “We must say ‘no’ to the law that will whitewash [Thaksin’s] crimes.”
Thursday marked the second round of debates on the bill in the House of Representatives. The bill has to go through a final House debate, which is expected in a matter of days, before it is sent to the Senate.
The timing of Mr. Abhisit’s indictment has prompted speculation that it was a ploy to try to gain support for the amnesty bill in the House among opposition members. But the Attorney General’s office denied any political motives, saying the indictment was a result of investigations that began last year.
Some pro-Thaksin “red shirt” supporters are concerned about the reach of the bill, upset it would give amnesty to Messrs. Abhisit and his former deputy, whom they view responsible for the crackdown that led to so many deaths–at a time when the two men are about to go through the criminal justice system.
“Puea Thai is risking making more enemies and losing support from traditional allies if it doesn’t listen,” said Prinya Thaewanarumitkul, a law professor at Thammasat University.
In a related development, Green Politics Group leader Suriyasai Katasila said yesterday it was critical to see whether the number of protesters at Samsen railway station would reach 100,000.
Suriyasai, who is also a key member of People’s Assembly Reforming Thailand, said the assembly would meet today and decide on their political movement. “Whether we will join the Samsen rally will depend on the situation. If the rally escalates, we will have to discuss it,” he said.
Thanong in The Nation:
Over the next three days, the rally is expected to attract 50,000 anti-government protesters. Five leading Democrats – Korn Chatikavanij, Thaworn Senneam, Issara Somchai, Siriwan Prassachaksattru and Satit Wongnongtaey – have resigned their positions on the party’s executive board, but still keep their MP posts.
Democrat MP for Bangkok Sansern tweets there were 50,000 at the protest yesterday. Suthep is quoted by ASTV Manager also saying there were 50,000 there and they want 100,000 for Friday and 1,000,000 by Saturday.
BP: Some comments:
1. On numbers, from a non-protester who was at the rally (and before most newspaper reports were released) advised BP that the main protest area in question was approximately 225 metres by 12 metres and densely packed (there were people on the periphery as well – as saw from TV – but they are much more difficult to count). Estimate on counting crowds vary, but it is between 3-4 people per sqm. If 3 people per sqm then 8,100. If 4 people per sqm then 10,800. If you include those on the periphery then would estimate based on photos of between 9,500-12,000 at the peak. Based on the location, it is hard to see there being more than 12,000 people, but even if same areas were not as densely packed as others (hard to tell from photos though if they were taken at the peak) then it seems unfair to say less than 9,500.
2. For a “first time protest” (people have been “burned” before in recent anti-Thaksin protests and that they turn up and things fizzle out quickly so you will have some who wait at home waiting to see what happens) on a weekday that was organized quickly this is a reasonably good number and the Democrats can be happy, but momentum requires an increase. BP does think that Suthep and Suriyasai are right that 100k would be needed for a critical mass to really change things, but for the immediate future and going on Suthep’s hopes of doubling today (which momentum wise seems reasonable) the Democrats will need around 20,000 today and further increases over the weekend. Having said that, the location is not really that conducive to large crowds so the Democrats may have to move to say Lumpini park or somewhere else.
btw, any other crowd numbers, please send to BP including source by twitter at @bangkokpundit or bangkokpundit at gmail dot com.