Govt in move to head off violence
Authorities set to call on 700,000 supporters to block trouble, says Isoc adviser Pallop
Authorities plan to block likely attempts to incite mob violence ahead of a politically challenging time by using a 700,000-strong network of supporters, a security adviser to the junta chief said yesterday.
General Pallop Pinmanee, adviser to the director of the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc), said the plan called for agency supporters to "approach targeted groups for a better understanding".
Network members will explain the good intentions of the government and the Council for National Security (CNS) in solving state problems, he said. CNS chairman Sonthi Boonyaratglin is Isoc director.
"The idea is to take out as many as possible prospective demonstrators. In a public rally with less than 50,000 participants, there will be no problem," Pallop said.
He was speaking at a gathering of community representatives from all 50 districts of Bangkok at City Hall.
He claimed there were attempts to incite clashes between supporters and detractors of the government and the CNS.
His comments come just more than a week ahead of historic rulings in separate electoral-fraud cases against the Democrat and Thai Rak Thai parties. The rulings will be delivered on May 30.
Pallop did not think rulings to dissolve the parties would lead to violence.
The Thai Rak Thai and Democrat parties yesterday demanded decisions over their fate be made using the law and not influence.
Caretaker leader Chaturon Chaisang insisted the party would not pressure the Constitution Tribunal over its May 30 ruling.
The tribunal has been considering allegations of electoral fraud in the April 2006 poll levelled at the Thai Rak Thai, Democrat and several smaller parties. They face dissolution if found guilty.
Chaturon said his party was not asking the tribunal to apply "political science" to its decision, but the law free of influence.
"We believe the judges will not take orders, even though the Council for National Security has been exhibiting such a tendency. The party just wants the tribunal to maintain justice. Whatever the outcome, the verdict will be historic," he said.
The party remains confident it will not be dissolved.
"The largest party and the oldest party should not be dissolved. There is no need to prepare for anything," he said.
Asked about supporters seizing provincial halls if the ruling dissolves the party, Chaturon warned against the use of violence, which would lead to confrontation and arrest.
"We offer a better alternative - capturing Government House in an election. Give us the majority in the House so that we can come back and run the country and solve people's problems," he said.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said in an article he was confident the nine tribunal judges would rule using the law and not bow to influence or pressure.
Abhisit opposed those who believed if one party was dissolved so should the other.
"This concept is strange. If the facts in the two cases are different such a verdict would conflict with the truth.
"We have pointed out attempts by Thaksin Shinawatra to put the Democrat Party in the same boat as the Thai Rak Thai when he realised his party faced dissolution," Abhisit said.
He disagreed with suggestions judges would use "political science" to settle the case rather than the law.
"This practice was used in the asset-concealment case against Thaksin in 2001. Society should learn a lesson because the crisis and problems we face now could have been avoided if we had not allowed in power a person who was not transparent about his assets or had conflicts of interest," Abhisit said.
The Democrat leader rejected suggestions of a compromise that would not see party executives banned from politics.
"This will create problems for the Democrat Party which has a strong democratic foundation.
"On the other hand, this proposal will benefit factions defecting from the Thai Rak Thai. It will become weaker. Democrats will be confused. New political groups emerging from the Thai Rak Thai will shake hands with the CNS to cling to power," Abhisit said.
Democrat Party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon said it was distributing a fact sheet explaining the charges against it. He hoped it would prevent confusion and political turmoil.
Copies will be sent to party members, former members of Parliament, executive board members and party branches.
He said the party would respect the tribunal's decision. There will be no demonstrations by supporters. "We are ready to abide by the verdict," he said.
Thai Rak Thai spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang concurred with Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who said the tribunal must rule freely and not dissolve all parties if it dissolves one.
Thai Rak Thai has distributed its own fact-sheet and published it on its website in English and Thai.
It contains information submitted to the tribunal during the hearing and is titled "The legal case against the Thai Rak Thai Party: allegations and facts".
The fact sheet concludes: "Under the present challenging situation to national cooperation and peacefulness, every Thai citizen rests their hope on the integrity and justness of the Constitutional Tribunal to reach the verdict according to the evidence without succumbing to any outside interference".
Tribunal judges were yesterday urged to explain how they plan to reach a verdict to prevent political-advocacy groups from instigating protests that may lead to confrontation and bloodshed.
Campaign for Popular Democracy secretary-general Suriyasai Katasila called on the judges to ensure that they will rule without discrimination and without political interference.