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Group declares D-Day to oppose amnesty bill

Assembly of civic groups says members will rally a day after house's 3rd reading

AN UMBRELLA GROUP of government opponents vowed yesterday to hold a mass protest once the controversial amnesty bill clears its third reading in the House.

Leaders of the group, the People's Assembly Reforming Thailand (PART), said its members would mobilise supporters to come out to join the mass rally once the bill was approved in the third reading.

The decision was announced following a meeting at Thammasat University of representatives of civic groups that disagree with the amnesty bill.

The Thammasat Auditorium was jam-packed with representatives of the civil groups when the meeting started at 9am.

The meeting was organised by PART, which acts as an umbrella group for most opponents of the government. Most PART leaders came from the disbanded People's Alliance for Democracy. The People's Army against the Thaksin Regime, which is holding a rally in Lumpini Park, and the Students and People Network for Thailand Reform, which is holding a protest at the Urupong Intersection, also belong to PART.

PART president Somkiart Pongpaibul announced at 2pm that representatives of all civic groups had exchanged opinions and agreed to hold a mass protest to try to block the bill's final passage.

The opponent groups believe the government is abusing its House majority to usurp absolute control of the country and to enact an amnesty bill to whitewash the wrongdoings of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Somkiart said.

They suspect the government will cede the country's boundary with Cambodia near the Preah Vihear Temple for its own interests, and fear this might be reflected in a ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Preah Vihear dispute on November 11.

Somkiart said the meeting resolved to have him coordinate with leaders of all provincial groups and networks to join the planned mass rally.

"The meeting resolved that the day after the bill is passed in the third reading by the House will be the day for mobilising the people to join the mass rally," Somkiart said.

"All groups can start mobilising protesters immediately without having to wait for PART."

On Saturday, chief government whip Aumnuay Khlangpha said the House was expected to deliberate the Amnesty Bill in the second and third readings in mid-November at the earliest.

Somkiart said the meeting also resolved to have PART support public campaigns, including the rallies by the People's Army and the Urupong demonstrators, as well as protests by rubber growers and a group campaigning to defend Thai territory related to the Preah Vihear dispute.

Somkiart said the meeting also resolved that PART would hold another meeting to map out future moves if the ICJ rules that the area around the Preah Vihear Temple belongs to Cambodia.

Leaders of provincial groups that are members of PART would be told to stay on full alert in preparation to join the mass protest at any time, Somkiart added.

During the meeting, Nititorn Lamlua, an adviser to PART, said he believed Thaksin was planning to have the red shirts clash with the anti-government demonstrators. This would give the government justification to enact a blanket amnesty in the form of an executive decree, without waiting for the long process of enacting the bill to be complete, Nititorn said.

Also yesterday, about 200 members of the Red Sunday group led by Sombat Boongnarmanong gathered at the Ratchaprasong Intersection at noon to protest against the amnesty bill.


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