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Capital siege set for Jan 13

PDRC to hold daily marches from Sunday; may surround the homes of key govt figures

THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT People's Democratic Reform Committee last night announced details of its plan to lay siege to Bangkok from January 13. PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban said the siege could last for a month, or until the caretaker government of Yingluck Shinawatra resigns so political reform is possible.

He said that from Sunday, daily marches will be held so PDRC members can further promote the siege. He added that from today, the PDRC would be accepting suggestions from local Bangkok communities on how they could contribute to the siege. He also cited PDRC supporters attached to Chulalongkorn University, who say they may set up a stage at Pathum Wan intersection and businessmen who will do the same on Silom Road.

PDRC supporters may also gather outside the homes of key government figures, essentially keeping them captive in order to limit their activities, Suthep said.

He had earlier pressured police chiefs to look into the widely distributed video clips of so-called "men in black" apparently firing projectiles at protesters from a building inside the Labour Ministry compound during a skirmish at the Thai-Japanese stadium on December 26. The protesters were trying to disrupt candidacy registration.

Suthep has given Bangkok police chief Pol Lt-General Camronvit Toopkrajank until Tuesday to identify these "men in black" and seek their arrest. He also named national police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew as being responsible for the presence of men dressed in anti-riot gear at the Labour Ministry.

In related news, the possibility of a February 2 general election being held still looks bleak, with legal complications disrupting registration procedures.

MP candidates were unable to register at 24 constituencies in five southern provinces on the final day of registration yesterday. But nobody showed up in 28 constituencies in eight provinces, the EC said.

The Pheu Thai Party is pressuring the Election Commission (EC) to extend candidacy registration and accept the legitimacy of MP candidates who registered at police stations.

However, the proposals have been turned down by Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who said the election law clearly states candidacy registration must be carried out at places earlier announced by the EC. Extending registration, he said, might adversely affect the election's timetable.

He added, however, that the EC would look for and discuss solutions to the problem, and whether to extend the election registration period.

Somchai said the EC would today hold a meeting with Pheu Thai and Democrat leaders to find solutions to the country's political deadlock.

EC to seek solutions

EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said the EC would meet today to try and resolve the problems, especially the severe ones in 40 constituencies.

He said the EC would also talk about the action that can be taken in relation to the 123 MP candidates who filed police complaints after failing to register. The commission promised to protect their rights.

As for extending the registration period, Puchong said it would be difficult as changing the deadline would also affect the number of eligible voters.

Pheu Thai party-list MP candidate Panas Tassaneeyanont dismissed Somchai's statement that registration cannot be extended. He cited Article 7 of the Constitution's organic law, which he said stipulates that candidacy registration can be carried out for more than five days but not beyond election day.

He insisted that Article 36 also empowers election chiefs at constituency level to select a new location where registration can be held. He added that if election officials did not carry out their duties, they could face charges punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a 10-year political ban.

Speaking after a meeting with the EC on Tuesday, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government's move to push for the general election would lead to political chaos.

As long as the government did not change its stance, he said, he was left with nothing to talk about.

"If the government leaves other options open, then talks are possible. If the government refuses to do so, it would lead to confrontation and intensifying political tension," he said.

A total of 168 candidates representing 23 political parties, not including the opposition Democrat Party, have registered for constituency candidacies in Bangkok, the Election Commission said yesterday. Of those, 46 submitted their applications yesterday, the deadline for registering.

Anti-government protesters yesterday laid siege to the 42nd Border Patrol Police camp in Nakhon Si Thammarat's Thung Song district after 20 MP candidates from five parties registered early on Tuesday allegedly with the support of high-ranking police officers, who ordered a helicopter to transport the MP candidates there.

A police official said the incident had further tarnished the image of the police, as they were seen as siding with the Yingluck government at the expense of the country.

Trang Provincial Election Commission chief Saneh Rakrong said his commission had decided to cancel candidacy registration to prevent confrontation and clashes because of heavy public opposition throughout the five days of the registration.

Meanwhile, the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) yesterday forged ahead with its efforts to shut down the Yingluck Shinawatra caretaker government, announcing a planned blockade of Bangkok after the New Year break.

Core leader Satit Wongnongtaey, speaking onstage at the group's main rally site at Democracy Monument, said the dates of the anticipated marches and other measures would be announced within the next few days, quoting an earlier speech by fellow leader Kaewsan Atibodhi.

Satit said caretaker premier Yingluck's time was up and her government must end its tenure by the end of this month. "It's a cancer in the penultimate stage, which will stop spreading once it is removed," he added.

Celebratory events and a New Year countdown were held on Rajdamnoen Avenue, which is occupied by a large number of PDRC supporters, from Tuesday night into yesterday morning.

Security has been tightened at the rally site and other areas occupied by two other protest groups, with visitors and their bags being searched thoroughly.

Former Thai Rak Thai Party executive Suchart Tancharoen yesterday applied for an MP candidacy in Constituency 3 of Chachoengsao under the Bhum Jai Thai Party banner.

Suchart is a former deputy House speaker and deputy premier. He was slapped with a five-year ban when Thai Rak Thai was dissolved in 2007.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, 49 MP candidates from nine parties registered in all of the province's 15 constituencies yesterday. Former Bhum Jai Thai deputy leader Boonjong Wongtrairat, a former interior minister elected to several consecutive terms as an MP in the province, registered on the last day.

Election officials in Prachuap Khiri Khan said the province is ready for the February 2 election as they have registered candidates for all three constituencies.

In Narathiwat, 21 MP candidates registered to run in four constituencies.

They include candidates from the Pheu Thai, Bhum Jai Thai, Chart Thai Pattana and New Democracy parties.


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