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Pro-govt rally anticipates Thaksin's call

Thousands of pro-government demonstrators gathering in front of City Hall have been told Thaksin might call them today

A pro-government rally in front of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration headquarters has gained momentum with thousands of people in red shirts already gathering at the venue.

It looked like a peaceful gathering so far, although their leaders had set a belligerent tone for the rally, calling it a fight against a new form of coup.

The Constitution Court's decision to quicken the party dissolution cases against the People Power Party, the Chat Thai and Matchima Thipataya parties with verdicts expected on Monday has prompted the pro-government camp to claim a "conspiracy".

The rally leaders claimed that the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy had struck a secret deal in which it will end the airports' closures in exchange for immediate dissolution of the three parties. The PAD has hit back at what it described as a blatant act of contempt of court.

The rally at the BMA is meant to be a prolonged one, apparently as a show of force ahead of the Constitution Court's decisions. The BMA has ordered 11 schools in nearby areas closed tomorrow, pending further notification.

The protesters at the BMA have been told that there was a possibility ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra would address them through a phone-in. "It depends on the situation," said one of the leaders around 5 pm.

There have been fears the political situation could become more tense today when government supporters stage a mammoth rally in Bangkok as the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy protesters continue to hold hostage the city's two airports.

The pro-government Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship initially planned to hold the rally at Sanam Luang but changed its plan later.

Police have increased their presence near Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, which were seized last week by PAD protesters, but made no attempt to disperse them.

Meanwhile the PAD yesterday mobilised more supporters from the provinces to join its rally in Bangkok.

The PAD may also try to seize seaports on the Eastern Seaboard if the takeover of the airports fails to force the premier out of office, Suthi Atchasai, a PAD leader from the East, told protesters at Suvarnabhumi yesterday.

Hundreds of PAD protesters managed to force a group of policemen manning a checkpoint on King Kaew Road, which leads to Suvarnabhumi Airport, to move out of the area. The protesters said the checkpoint was aimed at cutting off their supplies by preventing vehicles with food and drink from entering the protest site.

The pro-government DAAD said yesterday that its planned rally today was necessary as it was highly probable that three coalition parties, including the core People Power Party, would face dissolution when the Constitution Court ruled on the electoral-fraud cases later this week. The DAAD said it would have to deal with the PAD protesters by itself as police appeared to have taken no action against them.

Prime Minister Somchai Wongsa-wat yesterday said he was willing to talk with the PAD leaders but would not resign or dissolve the House of Representatives, as demanded by the protesters. "House dissolution and resignation must not be the conditions. This matter is for the political side to implement in accordance with the Constitution," Somchai said.

He also called on the protesters to end their takeover of the city's two airports, for the sake of the country.

"Takeover of an airport is wrong. It is a severe threat to the country's security. The world community's confidence in Thailand is gone. If the takeover continues, Thailand will become isolated. This incident has caused much damage to the country's image as well as its revenue," said the prime minister.

"[The PAD] says the government is causing damage to the country in order to remain in office. My question is: what has the government done to create that damage? And what about the seizure of airports? Is that not damage to the country?" Somchai said.

Somchai said he would remain in Chiang Mai but did not say where the next Cabinet meeting tomorrow would be held.

PAD co-leader Chamlong Sri-muang said early yesterday he was ready to talk with the prime minister but not in Chiang Mai, where Somchai has been staying for fear of a coup. Chamlong said the PAD leaders would talk to Somchai only in person, not on the phone. The PAD co-leader said he expected the ongoing turmoil to end before His Majesty the King's birthday on December 5.

The prime minister gave a national address last night, calling on citizens to do good deeds in honour of His Majesty the King ahead of his birthday.

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