Several thousand people gathered in the center of Bangkok for a rally of the so-called People’s Army against Thaksin Regime on Sunday afternoon. Organizers have planned for the rally to last two to four days, and have prepared food and supplies accordingly.
The main reason for the rally is to voice opposition to the amnesty bills proposed by the government in parliament. An amnesty bill that would clear ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra of all wrongdoing and pave the way for his return to Thailand appears to be the biggest fear of those opposed to the current government, which is headed by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Police say the rally, which is situated at the statue of King Rama 6 in front of Lumpini Park, has so far been orderly. National police chief Adul Saengsingkaew estimated the number of demonstrators at 4,000 Sunday afternoon.
He also said police are keeping a close watch to prevent any interference by a third party. His officers have been ordered to refrain from violence and act accordng to the law.
Reports indicate the protesters may spread to other areas of town, but police will follow them closely, he added. Police have been in contact with the rally leaders regularly.
Deputy Interior Minister Pracha Prasopdee claimed some protesters were being paid 300 to 500 baht per day to join the anti-government rally. “The money’s from businessmen who work in construction in Bangkok and nearby provinces. They have billions of baht to spend in an effort to topple the government,” said Mr Pracha.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Democrat MPs won’t resign over the amnesty bills to be put forth in parliament, but will oppose the government’s attempts to push them forward.
He said the Democrat MPs will still do their jobs when in parliament. But when outside parliament, the Democrats will take to the rally stage to explain to the public the negative consequences of the amnesty bills.
Mr. Abhisit said, “I’m worried about the protests against the amnesty bills and I’m afraid they will escalate. If there’s a clash between different groups of people, I want all sides to stay within the law. The one who can end the conflict is the government.”
Suthep Thaugsuban, Democrat MP from Surat Thani province, said if a single person is killed in Sunday’s rally his party will halt its parliamentary activities and join forces with anti-government protesters.
He said if the government insists on destroying the rule of law, different groups of people will come out and find ways to overthrow the government in an upright manner.
“Our fight will abide by the principles of non-violence and democracy. We want to tell Thaksin (Shinawatra) and Yingluck (Shinawatra) that Thailand does not belong to the Shinawatra family.”
“Do not threaten us. If a civilian is hurt or killed, I’ll be the one to topple the government and the prime minister will have to pack her bags and live abroad”, Mr. Suthep declared.