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Constitution Court

Fear of chaos as verdict looms

Pro-amendment rallies planned across country

A Constitution Court spokesman yesterday warned of a possible fracas at the courthouse when the landmark ruling on constitutional amendment comes out this afternoon.

"There is concern that some groups of people with ill intentions may try to create a situation and cause violence," Somrit Chaiwong said.

People interested in the case against charter-change advocates should stay home and watch the verdict reading on TV, he said, adding that the court's secretary-general, Chaowana Traimas, had decided to allow the proceedings to be broadcast live.

Security for the court has been beefed up, with its premises declared off-limits to demonstrators and guarded by police reinforcements.

Supporters of the pro-amendment camp continued to pressure the eight justices presiding over the case by planning rallies today at various spots in Bangkok and at various provincial halls including those in Khon Kaen, Pathum Thani and Chiang Mai. The demonstrators have been told by leaders to wait for the court verdict before making their next move.

No demonstrators would be allowed inside the court's compound, according to a source. Barriers were set up at the court's gate and no cars were allowed to park in the area.

About 300 police, including some from crowd-control units, were dispatched to the court to ensure safety for the judges.

National Police chief Priewpan Damapong expressed confidence the force could cope with any emergency following the ruling, with 13 companies assigned to the job.

Senior police, including Priewpan's deputy, General Worapong Chiewpreecha, went to the court to inspect drills by the crowd-control police.

Court spokesman Somrit said none of the judges has pulled out of the case despite the strain. They would make their decision according to legal principles. They have each been provided a copy of both closing statements for use in writing their individual opinions.

They would then meet this morning to discuss their individual views and vote on the final verdict before it was written and read out at about 2pm, he added.

Professor Prawase Wasi, a respected social critic, warned of possible turmoil.

By Thais' nature, the court verdict would not be extreme. However, the problem was the ongoing attempts to fan hatred between the opposing camps, which could eventually lead to violence and unrest. Similar incidents have occurred in other countries, such as the United States, Sri Lanka and Rwanda, leading to the deaths of several thousands of people.

"The Thai people have to be careful so that there will be no turmoil. We should not spread hatred although there is conflict," he said.

The differences should be settled peacefully through proper communication, he added.

Red-shirt leaders, with many supporting the government and backing the charter amendment bills, held gatherings of their followers at the Royal Plaza and their base at the Imperial Department Store in Lat Phrao that began yesterday and continued until today.

Payap Panket, an MP from the ruling Pheu Thai Party and a red-shirt leader, said the rally leaders would also criticise the Constitution Court judges, whom he accused of "having connections with dictatorship".

Kokaew Pikulthong, another Pheu Thai MP and red-shirt leader, called on the government's red-shirt supporters to come out en masse for the gatherings at the Royal Plaza and the Imperial Lat Phrao mall. However, he advised them against gathering at the Constitution Court to avoid becoming "the victim". He did not elaborate.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called on government supporters to wait peacefully for the court verdict.

"I do not want them to be overly worried," she said.

Yingluck will attend the Asean-US Business Forum in Cambodia's Siem Reap today.

Deputy Prime Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha yesterday left for Myanmar to attend a meeting on preparations for the Southeast Asian Games.

Pheu Thai MP Worachai Hema assigned his attorney Karom Polthaklang to file a civil suit against all but one of the nine Constitution Court judges seeking damages of Bt1.55 million and an order suspending the trial.


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