(2 January) Leaders of the Redshirts movement have vowed to organise massive rallies to counter the attempt to ′shutdown Bangkok? by anti-government protesters.
"Since [some] people will shutdown Bangkok on 13 January, we will keep the country open on 13 January," said Mr. Jatupon Prompan, a leader of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).
The move came after Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD), announced his plan to "shutdown" the capital city on 13 January 2014 by holding mass rallies on major intersections and roads of Bangkok.
Mr. Suthep billed the plan as the means to pressure Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra into resigning and paving the way for the establishment of an unelected ?People′s Council?, which would then implement series of "reforms" deemed desirable by the PCAD leaders.
PCAD also demanded that the upcoming election on 2 February 2014 be postponed before the "reforms" are completed, but the government has insisted that the election must go ahead as planned.
The Redshirts, the major support base of the government, have been mostly silent throughout the prolonged campaign by anti-government protesters; their last major rally in Bangkok in November last year ended in bloodshed after three of their supporters and one anti-government protester were killed in street clashes near the rally site.
However, it appears that the Redshirts have lost patience.
"The PCAD′s shutdown of Bangkok amounts to taking Thailand and Thai people hostages. It would lead to division and a civil war," Mr. Jatupon, the UDD leader, said in a press conference today at Imperial Ladprao shopping mall.
Mr. Jatupon also accused the PCAD of attempting to create chaos which would persuade the military to intervene. He warned that should a military coup take place, it would be met with widespread resistance by the people.
He encouraged the Redshirts to "follow and listen to signal from the leaders, but let me stress that we will proceed everything with peaceful means".
Ms. Thida Thawornseth, chairwoman of the UDD, also condemned the "Bangkok shutdown" plan by PCAD as a "dictatorship of the minority" to disrupt the upcoming general election.
She called on the Election Commission (EC) to reflect on its alleged reluctance to facilitate the election registration. "I would like to inform EC that the entire country knows what EC is doing, what is EC′s stance, who is claiming to be neutral but committing actions that are clearly biased," Ms. Thida said.
"At this minute, we have reached an important point," Ms. Thida told reporters, "We are prepared".
Later in the day Mr. Pichit Tamool, coordinator of the UDD in Chiang Mai welcomed Mr. Jatupon′s call for a counter rally on 13 January. He said he would discuss with other UDD leaders in the 17 northern provinces – the stronghold of the Redshirts – about plans to stage rallies in Bangkok.
He estimated that "500,000" Redshirts in the northern region would arrive in Bangkok to join the mass protest organised by the UDD and campaign against "the PCAD and all forms of extrajudicial powers".
However, Mr. Pichit said the local activists of PCAD are free to organise their planned rally in Chiang Mai in solidarity with the PCAD protesters in Bangkok on 13 January, but expressed his wish that the PCAD protesters in the northern province would refrain from occupying roads or storming governmental buildings.
"Don?t cause troubles to the people, otherwise the waves of the mass will surely go out and counter them," Mr. Pichit said.
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