Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sea of RED

It has been almost a year since the 'Black Songkran' and now the 'REDs' are back, this time not just thousands but they are aiming to have at least 1 million. Today is the 'D' day.. tomorrow... ?

Govt likely to enforce state of emergency on top of ISA
Published on March 14, 2010

The government will likely enforce a state-of-emergency decree today to cope with the escalating security problem in Bangkok after tens of thousands of provincial protesters arrived in the city yesterday.

A state of emergency, which would be on top on the current implementation of the Internal Security Act (ISA), would empower the military to fully take charge of the situation.

Under the ISA, soldiers can only help the police in maintaining law and order.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is expected to hold an emergency Cabinet meeting before the emergency decree is used, according to a senior government source.

Red shirts rallying for "democracy" yesterday threatened a mass march on Abhisit's hold-out if he does not dissolve the House of Representatives by noon today.

Tens of thousands of protesters gathering from across the country at the main rally stage on Rajdamnoen Avenue were prepared to lay siege to the Army's 11th Infantry Regiment on Phaholyothin, where the premier is temporarily billeted and manning a "war room".

Many demonstrators from the Northeast, North and other parts of the country arrived in Bangkok yesterday, with their numbers expected to swell past 100,000 today, said Tawil Pliensri, secretary-general of the National Security Council.

Jatuporn Promphan, a key leader of the anti-government movement, said that at this stage they had no plan to march to Government House, Parliament House or the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda. Natthawut Saikua, the red-shirt spokesman, said today would see more arrivals from central, eastern and western provinces as well as from around Bangkok.

"We're still confident the count will reach 1 million," he said.

Veera Musikapong, another leader, will address the rally today and deliver an ultimatum for Abhisit to dissolve the House and call a snap election.

"If Abhisit ignores our demand, we'll step up the protest by marching on Bangkok's streets and urge more people to join our campaign for House dissolution," Natthawut said.

The red shirts expect a successful conclusion before the week is out.

"Altogether, we do not plan to stay more than seven days. I guess we could have a victory within four days," Jatuporn said.

Korkaew Pikulthong, another leader, said disbanding the House was the only solution to the current crisis, nothing less.

"If Abhisit resigns, then Chuan Leekpai, chairman of the Democrat Party's advisory council, would likely be his replacement. In this case, we will continue to protest. We want the government to return power to the people via a new election.

"If there are more than 500,000 protesters, I think Abhisit will have to dissolve the House and every party should reach an understanding to accept the outcome of the new poll so that the country can move forward.

"Representatives of all the stakeholders, including General Prem, president of the Privy Council, Abhisit, General Anupong [Paochinda, Army chief], Sonthi Limtongkul [of the yellow-shirt movement] as well as General Chavalit [Yongchaiyudh, chairman of the Pheu Thai Party] and Veera Musikapong and Thaksin Shinawatra should also enter into this agreement," he said.

Police plan to dispatch 3,700 reinforcements to keep law and order during the red shirts' show of force in Bangkok.

Metropolitan Police spokesman Maj-General Piya Uthayo said police estimated some 40,000 red shirts had assembled in Bangkok yesterday, with more to join last night and today.

Authorities would be on guard for any sabotage during the night, he said.

Acting Government Spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said a huge turnout by the red shirts was still not beyond expectations.

Authorities would exercise special care around the protest site, mainly on Rajdamnoen Avenue, and the residences of important figures in order to prevent any unfortunate incidents.

Abhisit expects the build-up of protesters to peak today.

Authorities now will focus on preventing any extreme incidents, he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said authorities would use no force as long as the protesters did not break the law.

If they started blocking roads or breaking into government buildings or trashing private property, authorities would disperse the troublemakers, he added.