Bangkok – Thousands of protestors gathered in Bangkok Saturday to protest the government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva one day after he lifted emergency law in the capital. About 2,000 followers of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship
(UDD) had assembled at Sanam Luang – the Royal Grounds – by 5 pm. Organizers expect 5,000 to attend the demonstration that was scheduled to end at 11 pm.
The protest comes on the heels of Abhisit’s decision Friday to lift the state of emergency he declared in Bangkok and its environs on April 12 to suppress the UDD, or so-called red-shirts, whose increasingly aggressive behaviour led to the canceling of a regional summit in Pattaya, a beach resort 100 kilometres south-east of Bangkok, and attacks on the prime minister’s car.
Troops were ordered to disperse the red shirts on April 13, triggering a violent response from the protestors who went on a rampage in the city, blocking streets, burning buses, threatening to ignite petrol trucks and fighting with irate local residents.
The mayhem left two dead and 123 injured, according to government accounts.
The rioting was stopped on April 14, when UDD leaders ordered their followers to return home and surrendered to authorities.
On Friday, following the lifting of emergency law, the Bangkok Criminal Court approved the release of three top UDD leaders, including Veera Musigapong, Natthawut Saikua and Weng Tojirakarn, on bail of 500,000 baht (13,888 dollars) each.
Saturday’s protests was led by a “second string” of UDD leaders, who are demanding the government stop blocking pro-UDD satellite-based DStation and community radio stations.
The government ordered the closure of several pro-UDD media as part of the emergency law.
UDD’s Somyos Pruksakasem has assured authorities that Saturday’s event would be peaceful and not include any phone-in addresses from fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinwatara.
The government on April 14 revoked Thaksin Thai passport, forcing him to travel on one granted by Nicaragua, on charges of inciting unrest. He has been living in self-exile since August, last year, avoiding a two-year jail sentence in Thailand on abuse of power charges.
Thaksin, whose populist policies during his two-term premiership between 2001 to 2006 won him a large following among the rural and urban poor, at one point called on the UDD to stage a “people’s revolution” earlier their month as the protests gathered steam.
The former telecommunications tycoon is known to be eager to have authorities return 2 billion dollars in frozen bank accounts to his family members.
While Thaksin may have his own agenda in supporting the red shorts, political observers agree that the UDD has its own legitimate demands, such as the need for amendments to the 2007 constitution which was drafted when Thailand was under a military appointed government after the September 19, 2006 coup that toppled Thaksin from power. (dpa)