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Crowds gather as House joint session kicks off

Tul Sitthisomwong, head of the Network of Citizen Volunteers Protecting the Land, leads a rally against charter amendments outside Parliament yesterday.

Tul Sitthisomwong, head of the Network of Citizen Volunteers Protecting the Land, leads a rally against charter amendments outside Parliament yesterday.

Two groups gathered outside Parliament yesterday as the House and Senate kicked off their two-day joint session.



Some 300 police officers were deployed to control the crowd, consisting of people both for and against charter amendments.

Some 30 members of the multicoloured-shirt Citizen Network for Protection of Motherland, led by Dr Tul Sitthisomwong, submitted letters opposing charter amendments to representatives of both the lower and upper House opposing charter amendments. This group is particularly against changes being made to Articles 291 and 2. Article 291 deals with how members of the Constitution Drafting Assembly will be chosen, while Article 2 has to do with the institution of monarchy and the lese majeste law.

Tul argued that the charter should not be amended at all because it had been approved in a referendum back in 2007 and that the ruling Pheu Thai Party could not be trusted to not to rewrite the Constitution so it would help bring former PM Thaksin Shinawatra back to Thailand.

"Revising the charter without being specific [about what to amend] is tantamount to abolishing the 2007 charter," he said.

The multicoloured shirts dispersed at noon, though they vowed to regroup at Victory Monument tomorrow afternoon to voice their opposition to amendment of the lese-majeste law.

However, a bigger crowd of about 100 red shirts stayed on to support the amendments, because they say this charter is undemocratic and a tangible legacy of the military junta.

"We are here to support the amendment because the Constitution is wrong from the very beginning as it is a product of the [2006 coup]," Nattapat Akhad said.

Nattapat was clearly in charge of the red-shirt crowd, which was dancing in time to loud songs lauding Thaksin, as some brandished red flags and images of the former PM.

Atinuch Permsuk, 63, who hails from Bangkok's Hua Lamphong area shouted: "We want real democracy. We don't want fake democracy."

Another red-shirt supporter, a 65-year-old retired police officer who asked not to be named, said the elite could no longer fool them. "In this time and age, they can't fool us any more. If you still resort to using military force, things will become like Libya," he warned.

The red shirts were unfazed by the fact that their version of the amendments had yet to reach the Parliament for consideration.

When asked if it might be a better idea for both Houses to wait as suggested by the opposition Democrat Party, Nattapat said no. "This is a parliamentary process. I only ask that they do it for the people. Our job here is to provide moral support," he said.

Yet, it appeared as if some members of the crowd were providing more than just moral support when they started booing at a passing car that belonged to a Democrat MP. Luckily, Nattapat managed to calm the crowd down before things got out of hand.






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