Opposing Thai protesters mass, PAD to march on parliament

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thailand's ongoing political crisis continues today with pro- and anti-government rallies being held. Meeting outside Bangkok, the pro-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) is holding one of their "Truth Today" talkshows at Suan Kaew Temple. In the anti-government camp, supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are massing at the occupied Government House compound and calling their planned march on parliament their "final battle".

In contrast to a confrontation with authorities which could last days, the pro-government UDD talk show and rally is expected to disperse this evening. Organisers and government party MPs have given assurances there are no plans to confront PAD demonstrators.

Ensconced in the Government House compound since August, the PAD protesters' march on parliament was announced over this weekend following a grenade attack on Thursday that killed one and injured over 20. The yellow-shirted protesters assert that the People's Power Party (PPP) government lead by Somchai Wongsawat is too close to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Protest leaders insist their planned siege of the parliament is intended to prevent discussion of legislation to amend the constitution. The PAD claim the amendments are intended to rehabilitate Thaksin and members of his outlawed Thai Rak Thai party who were banned from holding office. The Prime Minister has denied any plans to review this draft legislation, stating that the agenda is predominantly related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

With two killed and over 500 injured in the last attempt to disrupt parliament, various hospitals and groups of medical staff are on standby, ready to treat any injured protesters. The October 7 protest at parliament saw police fire explosive tear gas rounds into the PAD crowd, causing death and loss of limbs. Following instructions from the Public Health Minister, Chalerm Yubamrung, eleven hospitals have been told to be on alert.