(10 November) A splinter group of the Redshirts movements has organised a rally in downtown Bangkok to criticise the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra for its pursuit of the ?blanket amnesty? bill.
The protest organised by the Red Sunday group coincides with a much larger rally held by Pheu Thai Party and the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the Redshirts? official leadership, in Muang Thong Thani exhibition complex where the messages are generally about showing support to the government at a time when anti-government factions seem to be gaining momentum in their campaign to oust Ms. Yingluck.
But at Ratchaprasong Intersection, the main site of the Redshirts mass protests in 2010 that ended in a bloody crackdown, Mr. Sombat Boon-ngarmanong, the coordinator of Red Sunday, told reporters the Redshirts should criticise the government′s attempt to push for the blanket amnesty, which would absolve the legal responsibility of those who authorised the 2010 crackdown.
Two types of governments are Thailand′s problem, Mr. Sombat said, the government of Ms. Yingluck which has proposed the ?amnesty for all? and led the nation into a renewed political crisis, and the government of former PM Abhisit Vejjajiva which has refused to take any responsibility for its role in 2010 crackdown.
He added that the blanket amnesty proposed by the government also had one other flaw: it excluded the amnesty for prisoners currently incarcerated for lese majeste (insults of monarchy) offences.
"These people are not criminals. They are victims of political conflict," Mr. Sombat argued.
Police estimated the number of protesters at Mr. Sombat′s rally at 2,000-3,000 people, while Mr. Sombat himself said 7,000 people were present at Ratchaprasong at the height of the rally – far below the expected show-up of 10,000 Mr. Sombat had hoped for.
The low turnout might have been influenced by the separate rally of UDD at Muang Thong Thani – a long drive from downtown Bangkok. Many protesters said they had to leave early to make their way to the UDD rally.
Nevertheless, it was a colourful rally. Police cordoned off roads around Ratchaprasong Intersection, leaving the protesters in full command of Ratchadamri Road which was usually crowded with traffic. The activists tied giant red ribbons over the road, while smaller red banners decorated the symbolic Ratchaprasong signpost. A Redshirts music band performed nearby.
Later in the afternoon, Mr. Sombat gave his speeches – next to a large teddy bear on a couch set in front of Ratchaprasong signpost – insisting his point
that the Redshirts should finally form their own political party, in order to pursue their own agenda without dependence on Pheu Thai politicians.
When someone in the crowd suggested that the Redshirts should maintain unity with Pheu Thai Party despite its flaws in order to keep the Democrat Party from taking power, Mr. Sombat replied that the tactics reminds him of how the Democrats threatened Bangkok urbanites to vote for the Democrat Party out of fear that Pheu Thai would win the election.
"In foreign democracies, people vote for the parties they like," Mr. Sombat said, "In Thailand, we voted for the party that is the opposite of the party we hate. That must be changed". If there is no viable choice, he added, the Redshirts must build their own political choice.
"The Redshirts should learn from Green Party in Europe," Mr. Sombat suggested.
He also demanded that the government apologise to the Redshirts for its attempt to pursue the amnesty plan for Mr. Abhisit even though it had previously promised that the cases of over 90 people killed in the 2010 crackdown would go through legal prosecution.
Some of the protesters have also hung their cardboard placards around Ratchaprasong Intersection. While many of them condemn Mr. Abhisit and his former deputy as murderers of unarmed protesters in 2010, some shared Mr. Sombat′s sentiment that Pheu Thai Party should apologise to its supporters.
The activities wrapped up around 17.00, without the usual candlelit vigil, as the police have asked the protesters to return the roads to traffic.
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