PDRC chief ready to seek royal nod for new PM; Jatuporn warns red shirts won't allow unelected premier
Suthep Thaugsuban, leader of the anti-government movement, announced yesterday that if the movement gained “sovereign” status he would seek royal endorsement for a new prime minister.
His announcement came as thousands of pro-government red-shirt demonstrators gathered for a mass rally on Utthayan (Aksa) Road in Nakhon Pathom, just outside Bangkok.
The red-shirt rally is being held at a time when the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is facing a number of legal problems that could lead to its demise.
Suthep yesterday said that as “the people’s medium”, he would nominate a new prime minister for royal endorsement.
He said following that a “people’s assembly” would be set up to reform the country by amending the Constitution and relevant laws, before a new election would be organised.
He said that it was now the “final round” of battle against the caretaker government and that the “victory day” for the anti-government movement was drawing closer.
Suthep, secretary-general of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), expects the next battle to last about 15 days in a bid to “seize sovereignty back to the people”.
He urged all groups of PDRC’s supporters to be ready for declaration of “victory day”.
“We will have to fight harder and this time it will be known if we will lose or win,” he said before a gathering of PDRC supporters at Lumpini Park.
Suthep said the timing of “victory day” would depend on separate actions by the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court against Yingluck.
The prime minister faces neglect-of-duty charges linked to the loss-making rice price-pledging scheme and allegations of abuse of power over the transfer of National Security Council secretary-general Thawil Pliensri.
Suthep said the PDRC would prevent the government and its supporters from denying the authority of the court.
“This time we will seize Thailand. The sovereignty belongs to the Thai people and the government has already committed suicide after dissolving the House of Representatives on December 9. We the people have the right to become the sovereign,” he said.
Suthep said that yesterday’s meeting of PDRC leaders from all over the country at Lumpini Park was attended by representatives from some 1,800 groups.
At the red-shirt rally, Jatuporn Promphan, leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said he expected as many as 500,000 people to take part in the rally.
He said the red shirts would not allow an unelected prime minister to rule the country and that after 82 years the country had had enough of a “lack of democracy”.
Jatuporn said the red shirts would end their rally tomorrow morning and there would be another mass rally on April 18.
A large number of red-shirt participants, most of whom came in different vehicles, caused traffic congestion in areas around the rally site.
PDRC leader Thaworn Senneam believes the caretaker government will be out of power by the end of the month after the Constitutional Court disqualifies Yingluck for illegally transferring Thawil.
The court on Wednesday agreed to rule on Yingluck’s status after a request was made by some senators. It followed a Supreme Administrative Court ruling that Thawil’s transfer was illegal.
Thaworn said the Constitutional Court would not need to work much on the case’s details given that the Administrative Court had already worked on it.
However, Thaworn said there were legal issues to look into, including how Yingluck’s status would change given she was now a caretaker PM.
Another PDRC leader, Suriyasai Katasila, believes the strategic areas of the fight will be in Bangkok, although the capital will need support from the provinces.
However, Suriyasai said the PDRC must expedite drafting of the blueprint for national reform and have it completed by the end of the month.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, as chief adviser to the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), said the red shirts’ rally was well organised and he did not expect any violence.
He said he did not understand the movement of 550 PDRC protesters, led by Phra Buddha Issara, which marched around Siam Paragon shopping centre yesterday.
Surapong believes the number of PDRC protesters has dropped to about 30,000 people and he is concerned a third party will instigate violence.
Col Banphot Poonpien, spokesman of the Internal Security Operations Command, said that Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha had ordered his men to strictly follow the laws and orders of the CAPO when taking care of peace and order related to the rallies of the PDRC and the UDD.
He said the military would keep a close eye on the two rallies and the situation was not worrisome at the moment while people should not listen to rumours as there had been no signs of violence.