Bangkok — Tensions are high in Thailand Monday with several unpredictable events set to occur simultaneously: the UN verdict on the Preah Vihear border dispute with Cambodia, the Senate handling of the amnesty bill, and escalating Bangkok protests from groups on both sides of the political spectrum.
The United Nation’s highest court is set to deliver its verdict on the long-standing border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia around the ancient Khmer Preah Vihear temple.
Troops from both nations have dug trenches and bunkers near the temple, and fighting in the area in 2011 killed 18 people and displaced thousands.
Military officials from both sides have said in recent days they expect no problems after the verdict, and Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra and Cambodian PM Hun Sen have agreed both nations must abide by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling and maintain peace and stability along the border, regardless of which way the ruling goes, according to reports.
The main fear is that certain groups may try to politicize the issue with tensions already high in Thailand with the protests over the amnesty bill.
The nationalist group the Thai Patriotic Network has already announced it will reject any judgement from the ICJ.
Also on Monday, the Thai Senate is to hold its first reading of the amnesty bill, and is expected to reject it in an attempt to defuse tensions.
The government has already taken several steps to try and calm down the protesters, but it appears to have had little effect.
The Pheu Thai government announced it will leave the amnesty bill in the hands of the Senate, and will not resurrect the bill after 180 days if the Senate rejects it, which it has the authority to do under the law.
It also killed several other remaining amnesty bills in parliament in recent days.
The Pheu Thai party’s coalition partners in the government also reassured the anti-amnesty groups that they would not support any future push by Pheu Thai MPs on amnesty bills in parliament.
Nevertheless, the anti-amnesty protests continue to mount in Bangkok, with several business groups joining in the demonstrations.
Three of the political groups are now calling for the overthrow of the Prime Minister, the House Speaker, and Senate Speaker, according to reports.
In response, the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship has begun pro-government rallies in Bangkok and in the provinces, denouncing the anti-amnesty protesters for trying to overthrow the democratically-elected Yingluck adminstration.
Authorities have stepped up security in Bangkok over fears violence could break out between the red-shirts and anti-government protest groups.