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Political upheaval feared today

The fate of the country hangs in the balance today in the face of another political upheaval that could lead to a bloodbath after the People's Alliance for Democracy vowed to launch an all-out effort to bring down the government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and prevent charter amendment by laying siege to Parliament today in its "biggest and final" rally yet.

The PAD announced its plan to move its protest from Government House to Parliament at a press conference yesterday after a three-hour meeting of its five core leaders at Ban Phra Arthit.

Meanwhile, appointed Senator Ruangkrai Leekijwattana said Parlia-ment had put the Constitution amendment draft presented by Dr Weng Tochirakarn, a leader of the pro-government Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship, at the top of its agenda to be discussed from tomorrow despite House Speaker Chai Chidchob insisting last week that this wouldn't be so.

He said the draft included clauses reducing the power of privy councillors, removing some independent agencies, whitewashing parties facing dissolution and giving amnesty to 111 former Thai Rak Thai Party executives.

PAD leader Maj-General Chamlong Srimuang yesterday showed members of the press that Constitution amendment had been marked urgent on Parliament's agenda for today.

Pipop Thongchai said the PAD intended to stop Parliament working in support of the Somchai government.

He said both Parliament and the government had lost any mandate to run the country because they refused to take responsibility for the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters on October 7.

He accused the government of continuing to use violence through a series of deadly bomb attacks to deter people from joining the PAD protest. "If the people are afraid, the government will be able to prevent peaceful protests in the long run, and we will not be able to protect our country and the monarchy,'' he said.

Sondhi Limthongkul said the latest bomb attack early yesterday that killed one person showed that the government was using undisciplined military officers to do its dirty work. "This is pressuring a peaceful gathering to use weapons in self-defence. Thai society will see a bloodbath. It is sad that military officers and police have taken part in this,'' he said.

The five leaders refused to reveal how they planned to break into the Parliament compound.

Chamlong insisted that the PAD must move on Parliament to ensure there was no charter amendment even after reporters told him that House Speaker Chai Chidchob had guaranteed that charter amendment would not be on the House agenda.

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