Day of protests

national January 26, 2013 00:00

By The Nation

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Bangkok sees demonstrations outside college, court; walk by some 1,100 monks adds to city's traffic woes

It was a day of protests in Bangkok yesterday, when three groups of people held separate demonstrations to air their grievances and make their demands.

At Assumption College in Bang Rak district, hundreds of current and former students as well as parents and teachers staged a protest against school director Anant Prichavudhi, for what they described as his poor management. The protesters demanded that the director be removed.
More than 500 employees of Bangkok Bank gathered in front of its headquarters on Silom Road to demand increases in bonus and other incentives.
And at the Criminal Court on Ratchadaphisek Road, about 20 people demonstrated against the Penal Code’s Article 112 lese majeste law and burned a copy of the code in protest against the 10-year jail term given to Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, former editor of the now-defunct Voice of Taksin magazine.
Meanwhile, more than 1,100 Buddhist monks from Dhammakaya Temple added to the confusion in the city yesterday, when they walked past several locations in Bangkok, including Rajdamnoen, Royal Plaza, and Victory Monument, as part of their thudong long walk covering 446 kilometres across seven provinces.
The monks had begun their walk on January 2, having passed through Pathum Thani, where the temple is located, Nonthaburi, Ayutthaya, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom and Samut Sakhon, before arriving in Bangkok, where they spent the night at Surasak Montri School.
Followers of the temple gathered along the route, scattering flowers on the monks’ path.
The walk was blamed for traffic congestion in the city yesterday in the areas through which the monks passed, during and after the walk. The protesters at Assumption College were unhappy with the school director’s plan to merge its primary and secondary sections and his expensive project to set up a new campus.
They became angry yesterday when the director ordered immediate suspension of classes for a week. His order cited possible threat to students’ safety, saying that “ill-intentioned people” were preparing to cause havoc in the school’s compound. The protesters said his move was in response to their plan to rally and demand a discussion with him.
More than 500 Bangkok Bank employees, after an earlier gathering on Tuesday, regrouped yesterday in front of the bank’s headquarters on Silom Road, demanding an increase in bonus from three months’ salary to four months. Dressed in black, they were joined by representatives of labour unions from Thai Airways International, Siam Commercial Bank and the Thai Labour Solidarity Group. 
In 1996, the bank paid a bonus of five to six months’ salary after earnings of Bt20.7 billion. In 2012, it posted Bt33 billion earnings. 
They also demanded resumption of retirement incentives worth Bt450,000, a 6-per-cent pay increase and the resumption of a 7-per-cent contribution to the Social Security Fund.
They walked around the bank at 12.45pm and dispersed at 1pm. They vowed to report to work dressed in black every day until their demands were met. The next protest is scheduled for Tuesday and they are also preparing to launch daily evening protests. 
“Management is discussing the situation,” said Bangkok Bank executive vice president Chaiyarit Anuchitworawong. “All demands can be resolved through negotiations. The bank has taken good care of employees: For example, assistance measures were offered when floods hit Bangkok, without any request” to do so.
Meanwhile, the protesters against Article 112 rallied in front of the Criminal Court at 11.30am. The protest was held for two days after the Criminal Court sentenced Somyos, who is also a key red-shirt member, to 10 years in jail after the magazine published two articles ruled to be in violation of Article 112 of the Penal Code.
The protesters held placards with messages such as “We can’t talk, we must be mute.”
The protesters read a statement that said they came from various walks of life and they disagreed with the use of Article 112 as a dictatorial tool.
The statement said the group could no longer tolerate the injustice that they alleged been happening repeatedly because of the enforcement of Article 112.
The group cited the case of Daranee Charnchoengsilapakul, who has been given a jail sentence, as an example of injustice under Article 112 enforcement. The statement said it was unconstitutional for the court to try Daranee in camera.
The statement said it was unfair for the court to put the burden of proving innocence on Somyos instead of proving whether he had any intention to insult the King. 
The protest continued for about an hour under the watch of police from Phaholyothin Police Station and security officers of the Criminal Court. Criminal Court Chief Justice Thawee Prachuablarb said the court would not take any legal action against the group because it had simply expressed its disagreement with the judicial process through a symbolic protest.
Thawee said he believed the majority of the people, who are neutral, would understand the Somyos case. Thawee said he feared that certain groups of people would use the case to incite public sentiment and would drag the European Union into interfering in the case to create credibility for their side. “But I believe the issue will not escalate out of control because our judicial system has clear rules and is transparent,” the chief justice said.

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