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Govt needs UDD more than ever
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  • Published: 7/06/2012 at 01:41 AM
  • Newspaper section: News

    The decision by House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont to delay putting the charter amendment bill on parliament's agenda, and to postpone debate on the reconciliation bills does not mean the Pheu Thai Party has thrown in the towel.



    Thousands of red shirts cheer as they listen to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra address them via a video link at Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi last Saturday. The Pheu Thai Party and Thaksin’s best hope of getting controversial legislation passed looks to be to call on the red shirts’ support.

    Party kingpin Thaksin Shinawatra has made his intention known that he wants the government run by his sister Yingluck to pass the bills sooner rather than later.

    In his address to his red shirt supporters at Muang Thong Thani last Saturday, the former prime minister said attempts by the establishment to rob people of their rights and end the rule of law had begun.

    He pointed his finger at the Constitution Court, which on Friday ordered the lower house to temporarily put on hold the charter bill until all legal doubts have been cleared.

    The Democrat Party and some senators had asked the court to clarify whether the bill, which easily passed its first and second readings and was set down for its third reading tomorrow, could lead to the end of the constitutional monarchy.

    Thaksin also reminded his supporters that the state had seized 4.6 billion baht of his wealth from the Shin Corp deal.

    A Pheu Thai source confirmed Thaksin had told party figures at a recent meeting to push ahead with the charter bill.

    He was concerned that delays could swing the momentum back to his opponents and more protesters could show up on the streets to block the bill, the source said.

    Key red shirt member and Pheu Thai party list MP Korkaew Pikulthong said the unity bills were more sensitive politically than the charter amendment bill, as the Democrats and the People's Alliance for Democracy are trying to link the reconciliation bills with a plan to whitewash Thaksin's wrongdoings.

    Mr Korkaew said that in his view, whether Thaksin gets back the money seized by the state was almost a non-issue for the opposition party.

    The Democrat Party's real worry was that Thaksin could return to politics, which could only spell trouble for the Democrats as Thaksin is much more popular.

    He quoted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who said Pheu Thai had received a public mandate to reconcile all political factions so the country could move forward.

    In his view, the rally called by the yellow-shirted PAD on May 30 in which fewer than 10,000 protesters turned out against the reconciliation bills was not a worry, as most were Democrat supporters or linked to them.

    He believed the red shirts would outnumber the yellows in the event of a confrontation between the two colour-coded camps.

    Academic Thawee Surarittikul of Sukhothai Thammathirat University said Thaksin was still calling on support from the red shirts to boost his cause, although many were suspicious of him after he indicated he might abandon the red shirts in the name of reconciliation.

    Thaksin's decision to appeal for public sympathy over the fate of his wealth or cry foul over the fate of Pheu Thai may be less successful this time in mobilising the red shirts, he said.

    Mr Thawee said the UDD has a mountain to climb as many leading members including Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Nattawut Saikuar and cabinet hopefuls such as Jatuporn Prompan are fighting court cases including terrorism charges.

    That could be why Mr Jatuporn warned of a possible coup, as he knew it would attract support from other red shirt members. But Mr Thawee said this ploy was unlikely to work either, as many people are grateful for the work which soldiers did in helping victims during last year's floods.

    Mr Thawee said some UDD leaders may be forced to withdraw from the movement once the fate of their legal battles is known, which could result in a leadership crisis for the UDD.

    It could also undermine the unity of 15 million voters who cast their ballots for Pheu Thai in last year's election.

    For the Democrat Party's 11 million supporters, as measured by its support in the same poll, the party could form an alliance with the PAD and the multi-coloured group to increase its support to 15 million anti-Thaksin demonstrators. The number might bring them equal with the UDD, but the Democrat-PAD alliance would enjoy an advantage over the red shirts in that it has more unity, he said. They will be bolstered by a group of "silent" voters who do not want the return of Thaksin and have launched a "Stop Thaksin, Stop Crisis" campaign.

    Democrat MP for Trang Sathit Wongnongtoey said Thaksin's attack on the Constitution Court and Mr Jatuporn's warning of a coup were aimed at picking up support among red shirt supporters.

    Mr Sathit believes the ruling party could compromise by pushing through the charter amendment bill first.

    Thaksin might have to explain to UDD members why he decided to forge reconciliation with his opponents, whom many red shirts blame for the 91 people who were killed during the street clashes two years ago.

    The bottom line for Thaksin is to clear himself of all charges and get his 4.6 billion baht back, he said.

    Pheu Thai knows the reconciliation bills and charter amendment bills are hot issues which could spark another major rally against Thaksin and the government.

    Their best hope of keeping up the momentum is to call on the red shirts to back Pheu Thai.


    Pheu Thai plans charter vote




  • Published: 7/06/2012 at 02:44 AM
  • Newspaper section: News

    Pheu Thai plans to seek a parliamentary vote Friday on whether to go ahead with the third reading of the charter amendment bill.

    A joint parliament session will be held Friday to consider the international cooperation framework under Section 190 of the constitution requiring parliamentary approval prior to signing any international treaties and agreements.

    However, Parliament President Somsak Kiatsuranond has put the Constitution Court's order, which suspends the parliament's third reading of the charter amendment bill, on the agenda for discussion.

    A Pheu Thai source said the party will rebuke judges for suspending parliament's reading of the bill.

    The party has assigned a team of 20 MPs led by Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung to argue against the ruling, which they consider to have overstepped the court's authority by interfering with parliament's legislative authority, said the source.

    After the debate, the party will request a vote against the court's order to suspend readings of the charter bill, the source said.

    Meanwhile, the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) Wednesday decided to scale back its plan to gather outside parliament Thursday and Friday to shield MPs on their way to the House from possible protest action.

    UDD spokesman Worawut Wichaidit said red shirt leaders had resolved instead to stage a symbolic rally only from the morning until noon today.

    The demonstration was aimed at expressing the UDD's opposition to the court. The red shirts did not want to cause any confrontation that could lead to a new wave of violence, he said. The shorter rally would also give less cause for yellow shirts to stir up unrest to put pressure on the military to stage a new coup.

    The UDD will also ask supporters to join its signature campaign to demand the ouster of Constitution Court judges who supported the decision to suspend the debate.

    The UDD decision came after its political rival the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) Wednesday vowed not to protest just yet, saying legal mechanisms were still functioning well enough to prevent any attempts to overthrow the constitution.

    PAD spokesman Parnthep Pourpongpan said the PAD would consider staging a new protest only if further attempts were mounted to pass into law measures that would compromise the King's power, whitewash ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra or reform the country in the way the government had previously announced.

    The third reading of the charter amendment legislation is not considered a significant enough factor for the PAD to resume its protest, unless the reconciliation bills are also inserted into parliament's agenda, PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul said.

    Meanwhile, national police chief Priewpan Damapong ordered every police precinct to prepare for a possible crowd control operation, said police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Piya Uthayo.


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