Donnerstag, 21. November 2013

New anti-government protest in Bangkok - a small chronicle

Protest camp of the "Students´ and People´s Network for Thailand Reform" at Makkawan bridge.

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Worachai Hema
The latest series of anti-government-protests started in early August, when Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema proposed the first version of an amnesty bill to the parliament (
In his proposal only protesters (pro- and anti-government supporters alike as well as red- and yellow shirts) should be granted amnesty (beginning from 2006 until 2010). Protest leaders, responsible politicians, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, high ranking military officers and other authorities involved in violent protests, airport occupations, arsoning of buildings and the brutal crackdowns in April and Mai 2010 had been excluded from the amnesty.
The public response against this proposal was only lukewarm. The first protest of the PEFOT-movement (People's Force for Democracy to Overthrow Thaksinism) at Lumpini park was joined by 3,500 - 5,000 protesters only. The following days and weeks the support decreased more and more, sometimes only a few hundred people joined their rallies.

First PEFOT protest on 04.08.2013 at Lumpini park.

PEFOT rally site at Lumpini park on August 7th.

Also the protest rally of the Democrat Party and their announced march on parliament on 7th August 2013 was a complete failure. Just some 2,500 protesters joined the protest march that was stopped by police forces far off the parliament building.

Protest march of Democrat Party supporters on August 7th.

The whole situation changed dramatically in October 2013 just before the second and third reading of the proposed amnesty bill. On the quiet the House Committee varied the terms of the first version of the amnesty bill (as proposed by MP Worachai Hema) which already passed the first reading and added the suggestions of MP Prayuth Siripanich. Now all persons, which had been excluded in the first draft, were now included in a general amnesty, also Thaksin Shinawatra. This new version was backdated to 2004. But again, in this revised draft the 112 prisoners /political prisoners were excluded from the blanket amnesty!

On 1st November, after the second and third reading in a 19 hour parliamentary session, nearly all of the remaining MP's voted in favour of the amended version of the general amnesty (all MP's of the oppsition parties left the hall before the final voting or abstained from polling).

The way the bill was passed and the amendments were implemented sparked a wave of anger across ALL political camps! Four Pheu Thai MP's abstained from voting, and many non-parliamentarian groups voiced their discontent about a possible return of  Thaksin Shinawatra. Other groups critisized the unconstitutional process of the voting,and the anti-government groups intensified their protests, and many people were frustrated and enraged, that Thaksin should escape unpunished.
Interestingly, all those human rights violations during the protests and crackdowns in 2010 were seen as irrelevant for most of these anti-amnesty respectively anti-government protesters.

But this time the wave of protest was joined by many relatives of the injured or killed protesters and soldiers. Also several red shirt groups staged anti-amnesty-bill protests.

According to "The Nation" newspaper, Sombat Boon-ngamanong, organizer of the Red Sunday group explained: "We are here to show that our principles have not changed. We are against amnesty for state killers. We don't forget what happened at Ratchaprasong. Yingluck should apologise, especially to the redshirts who elected her. We want an amnesty for lese majeste political prisoners." He also demanded that Abhisit Vejjajiva and Yingluck Shinawatra - the past and present prime ministers - should also come forward to apologise to the people, especially the leader who presided over the fatal crackdown in 2010.

"We disagree with the amnesty but we don’t want to see this government fall because of growing pressure from the opposition," said Thawon Songprasom, 50.

Dr. Weng (with microphone), Sombat (with black hat) and Jatuporn at the Redshirt protest at Ratchaprasong on 10 November.

Katthiyaa Sawasdipol, daughter of assassinated Major-General Katthiya Sawasdipol aka "Seh Daeng".

Phayao Akkhahad, mother of a paramedic killed during 2010 crackdowns, called for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to issue an apology for have "betrayed the people" by pushing for a blanket amnesty that would cover those responsible for the crackdowns.

"Supporters of amnesty acted like thieves calling for help to shield the government after being caught trying to steal from the people," she said. Phayao urged the red shirts not fall prey to protect the government, which had been insensitive to the people's feelings.


Mr Worachet (the complete comment of the Nitirat Group at said the new version of the bill could be unconstitutional because it was not in line with the version approved by the House in the first reading in August. He said the ruling party could still save face by voting down the bill in the second reading, which began yesterday, and set up a "committee of the whole House" to re-examine the Worachai bill section by section. He also asked why the amnesty bill does not cover those charged under the Criminal Code's Section 112 known as the lese majeste law, since such a condition contradicted the principle of people's liberty.

"The amnesty is supposed to deal with types of offences that are connected to the political conflicts since the coup. So how do the lawmakers know that charges brought under Section 112 were not also tied to the conflict?" he said.

Obviously, some very "influential Pro-Thaksin supporters" were very angered by the anti-anmnesty protest of some redshirt leaders. Without warning the shows of Sombat, Jatuporn, Thida and Nattawut were axed by the redshirt tv-station ASIA UPDATE.
So much for freedom of speech and democracy!

- Asia Update online television station had no justification in removing programmes hosted by four red leaders, Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn said on Monday.
Should the station want to promote the amnesty bill, it then ought to introduce the views of amnesty proponents instead of blocking the dissenting voices, he said.
The cancelled programmes involved red leader Jatuporn Promphan, Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikua, Red Sunday leader Sombat Boonngamanong and Weng's wife Thida Thavornseth.
The station, run by pro-Thaksin allies, were seen as close to the red shirts -


...Pheu Thai list MP and United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) core member Went Tojirakarn on Monday asked AsiaUpdate, the satellite TV station for the red-shirts, why it has removed shows hosted by four leading red-shirt figures from its programming schedule. The four are Sombat Boonngamanong, leader of the Red Sunday Group, Tida Thawornseth, the UDD chair, Jatuporn Prompan, a UDD core member, and Deputy Commerce Minister Nattawut Saikuar, also a UDD core member.
They all have voiced opposition to the amnesty bill as revised by the House scrutiny committee to offer a blanket amnesty, which they said would allow those who ordered the crackdowns on red-shirt protesters in 2010, resulting in 92 deaths and hundreds of injuries, to go unpunished.
Mr Weng said he did not understand why the executives of the satellite TV station did this, saying that this showed they did not support democracy, which in principle does not obstruct but is open to the expression of different opinions...

Redshirt protesters chanted "Ti nii mi khun thaai" - people died/were killed here!

Democrat Party protest:
From November 2nd on,  the Democrat Party started its own permanent protest camp near Samsen train station instead of joining the other protest groups as PEFOT (still at Lumpini park) or the Student's Network (at Urupong intersection). They called for everyone to join their protest to stop the amnesty bill. At this time (around 3rd November) Abhisit Vejjajiva and the Democrat Party declared in public all protests should stay within the limits of the law. Their intention was to stop the amnesty bill only, and not to oust the government. In this point they differed from PEFOT and the Student's Network which main goal was to kick out the government from the beginning.

The former permanent camp of the Student and People's Network at Urupong, 03.11.2013.

03.11.2013, the stage at the Democrat Party camp at Samsen station at 11.30.

On November 2nd, the public feedback was definitively better as on 7th August. In the evening between 8,000 and 10,000 people joined the rally. But this was still less than expected by the leadership of the Democrat Party (DP). Suthep Thaugsuban, former deputy prime minister and protest leader of the Democrats, called on the people to come out in force the next day and join the protest against the amnesty bill from 10.00 AM on at the Samsen protest camp. Maybe it was too hot, too "early" in the morning or it was just the location, anyway, only a few hundred protesters had arrived until noon. It must have been very disappointing for the organizers. Only later in the evening some thousands people gathered at the rally site.

Moving the camps to new locations:
Maybe that's why protest key-leader Suthep and the DP decided to move their rally site to a far more significant location and to occupy the area around Democracy Monument at Rachadamnoen Road on November 4th. This was a clear violation of the ISA (Internal Security Act).
So much for Abhisit's announcement, that the protesters will respect the rule of law and won't get involved in any criminal actions. 
But to use this area is also a provocation to the Redshirts. 26 people (protesters and soldiers alike) got killed at or near the Monument during the first crackdown when Abhisit and Suthep ordered the army to disperse the Redshirt protest on 10th April 2010 (

03.11.2013, around 11 o'clock Suthep Thaugsuban arrived at the protest site at Samsen station.

The new rally site of the Democrats at Rachadamnoen.

Also the other two main protest groups moved their rally sites. On November 7th the "Students' and People's Network" moved their camp to Makkawan bridge (near to the United Nations building and close to the Government House). This was one of the main protest sites of the second PITAK Siam protest in 2012 (

On 27 October the Students' Network was joined by Chamrong Srimuangs's Dhamma Army ( and got support from several unions like the Labour Union of Government Pharmaceutical Corporation, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the Worker's Union of the CAT Telecom, The State Enterprise Workers' Relations Confederation of Thailand (SERC), etc.

07 November 2013, several police battalions were stationed at Makkawan bridge.
Barricade made of  concrete blocks at Makkawan bridge.

In front of the stage of the Students' Network opposite the Military Headquarter.

Students' Network supporter at makkawan bridge.

PEFOT (People's Army to Overthrow the Thaksin Regime) moved to Phan Fa Bridge on November 5, another provocation  for the Redshirts. At this location the Redshirts established their first permanent rally site during the anti-government protest in 2010 before they moved to Ratchaprasong. But in general the PEFOT is becoming less important.

11 November 2013, PEFOT supporters at Phan Fa bridge.

On 4th November a new group joined the anti-government protests: the "Business Club for Democracy" (BCD) led by the businessman Somkiat Homla-or. This group of  wealthy businessmen founded and organised the so-called "Silom Lovers Group" which defended (so they claim) the Silom commercial district against the Redshirts in 2010. Some of their so-called supporters and/or mob attacked and tried to kill people who they thought were Redshirts or Redshirt supporters. 

So-called supporters of the Silom lovers Group attacking a car of a probably Redshirt in 2010.

The BCD called for all office workers, business owners and their employees to join anti-amnesty rallies (called whistle-blowing) around noon during their lunch break at significant commercial centres all over Bangkok. As a sign of protest they all should blow a whistle. The BCD itself was surprised by the large number of protesters that joined their first rally at Sala Daeng station on Silom road on November 4th. Some 8,000 people gathered at the protest site (others claim more than 10,000, but that's defintively exaggerated). Their campaign ended two weeks later when the senate rejected the amnesty-bill on November 11th. 

04.11.2013, rally organized by Business Club for Democracy

After the Senate rejected the Bill:

On November 11th, after a 12 hour meeting, the Senate unanimously rejected the blanket amnesty. This means even those senators close to the government rejected the bill.
On the same day Suthep Thaugsuban, and 8 other party members of the Democrat Party resigned from their jobs as Members of Parliament. (
Suthep declared on the stage at the Democracy Monument that now the time has come to oust the governement!
Ooops, didn't Abhisit Vejjajiva announce just a few days ago that this protest is just about the amnesty bill and that the Democrat Party has no intention at all to oust the government? 
Another promise broken!
Suthep called for three days of civil disobedience and a nation-wide general strike. All employees and workers should stop working from Wednesday 15th to Friday 18th. He also called on schools and universities to cancel all classes for those three days. As another expression of disobedience everyone who supports the protest should raise the Thai national flag at home, carry it with them as head- or wristband or display it on their car. Any kind of civil disobedience that's NOT violating any law would be welcome. Finally he asked the businesses to delay their payment of their corporate taxes. But here he overstepped the mark! He asked the companies to infringe the law! (We remember the announcement of party leader Abhisit: protesters should respect the rule of law! Again, another promise broken!)
But the "Three Days of Disobedience" were a complete failure. I saw no one wearing or rising the national flag apart from the rally sites. I heard about no school or university cancelling their classes (at least not where I live and our district is very conservative and anything but red) and only a very small number of companies followed the call for a general strike.

Here two comments on Suthep's call for civil diobedience:

Narudom Roongsiriwong, an executive director at ECOP, said Suthep's four actions were not reasonable, especially when it came to not paying corporate tax. He said not paying tax was illegal and the three-day strike would only damage the economy. "What he is asking us to do is illegal," he said.

Presit Klong-Nguluerm, chairman of the Thai Electronic Publishing Club, also said not paying tax was illegal and pointed out that the illegal amnesty bill cannot be fought using illegal means. "It is not the right thing to do."

Suthep's call for the final battle:

After the desastrous failure of Suthep's call for civil disobidience he is obviously getting more and more desperate. The protest is loosing continously it's momentum since the Senate rejected the bill. Therefor he is warmongering and his speeches are getting more aggressive. On November 17th he declared in front of estimated 20,000 supporters at the Democracy Monument:
...Ex-Democrat MP and anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban is mobilising people to join a "major battle day" next Sunday at the Democracy Monument.
"This is your last chance to be part of an historic day when Thais free themselves from the Thaksin regime. This is the final opportunity for you to create a better future for our next generations," Mr Suthep told about 20,000 people at a rally on Sunday night. "For those who have not come out, Nov 24 is battle day. It's time to wage a war," he said. "Please come out to join this fight. Next Sunday will be the victory day of the people." He said he expected at least one million people to turn up on that day. Mr Suthep also urged people from the provinces to come to Bangkok. "For those who can't who can't come here, please gather at the provincial hall at your province and wait for a signal from the Ratchadamnoen stage," Mr Suthep said...

The Constitutional Court's decision on the Charter amendment:

This was another attempt by the DP to topple the government. They hoped the Court may dissolve the ruling coalition parties according to Article 68 of the Constitution. More about this topic you can find in this brilliant summary:

The Constitutional Court on 20 November.

(Text by Saksith Saiyasombut, Siam Voices)
UPDATE (Nov 20, 14.30h): The Constitutional Court ruled that the charter amendments to be unlawful, but did not disband the ruling Pheu Thai Party and their coalition partners. The judges took offense at the many irregularities during the parliamentary process (such as MPs using their absent colleagues voter ID cards to vote on their behalf) and the changes to Article 115.5 of the Constitution (see below). Full story and analysis here.
The current political tensions in Thailand could be prolonged this morning (Wednesday) at 11am as the Constitutional Court yet again decides on the constitutionality of proposed amendments brought forward by the ruling Pheu Thai Party (PT). A rejection could also yet again threaten PT and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s grip on power – something that anti-government protesters are counting on.

Prof Ukrit Mongkolnavin, speaking at a seminar on on the charter court's role, warned that the ruling may interfere with royal powers because the draft has already been submitted for royal endorsement and it may trigger violence. "The court will interfere with royal powers and may have to be responsible for any deaths that may result from a clash," ...

Prinya Tevanaruemitrkul, a law lecturer at Thammasat University, said yesterday the rejection of the court's powers by government MPs and senators is irrelevant as the amendment is now pending royal endorsement.

Anti-Government protesters in front of the Constitutional Court.

Everybody is waiting now for Suthep starting his "final war" on Sunday. If this fails also, then Bangkok will return hopefully back to normal. The parliament´s final session for this year is on Friday, November 29th and the preparations for the celebrations of the birthday of His Majesty the King on December 5th will go on (which could last between one and several weeks, the duration has still to be announced by the government).  All protest parties already agreed to clear their camps and to stop the protests during the celebrations inside the designated areas for the parades and celebration activities .

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