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CONSTITUTION

Pad kicks off new rallies

Clash averted as anti-charter rewrite group faces protest



A fresh round of tit-for-tat political confrontation started yesterday, with the People's Alliance for Demo-cracy vowing to stage a rally at the Democracy Monument until this morning to block a constitutional amendment while supporters of the rewrite were trying to disrupt the rally.

Police were adopting cautious measures to prevent both sides from clashing.

The PAD, which played a catalyst role in removing former prime minister Thaksin Shina-watra from office in 2006, has regrouped to pursue the unfinished agenda of uprooting the political power base of Thaksin. It has made it clear that the amendment is aimed at preventing the political parties from being dissolved and at helping the former prime minister get away from the legal cases against him.

Suriyasai Katasila, a PAD leader, said the rally would last until 10am today and that it might move from the Demo-cracy Monument to Govern-ment House and the Parliament.

Supporters of rewriting the Constitution tried unsuccessfully to disrupt the PAD rally.

More than 100 pro-amendment people gathered near the PAD's protest site shortly after the rally began at 3pm. A crowd leader, Waranchai Chokchana, attacked the PAD over a megaphone, using curses and vulgar words.

Despite the presence of about 30 policemen, some of the pro-amendment demonstrators ran after a PAD truck and tore down a banner carrying the message "Don't amend the Constitution if you love the country".

The crowd, many of them from the anti-coup Demo-cratic Alliance against Dic-tatorship, also burned effigies of the five PAD leaders.

The pro-amendment crowd then hurled plastic bottles at the PAD supporters, who threw them back. A 48-year-old man, identified as Weerayut Seni-wongse na Ayutthaya, was slightly injured in the clash.

The pro-amendment people later moved back to their place opposite Satriwithaya School. They continued verbally attacking the PAD and displaying banners condemning its rally.

The PAD rally continued and caused parts of Rajdamnoen Avenue to be closed to traffic as the number of protesters grew.

The group claimed authorities were attempting to block its supporters from the provinces coming to join the rally at the Democracy Monument.

Suriyasai said the group would today file a petition with the Senate speaker against MPs and senators who filed the amendment motion recently. He said their move was an act against the Constitution and therefore warranted an impeachment campaign.

In a related development, the pro-amendment group yesterday threatened to seek a court order to revoke the bail of media mogul and PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul if he took to the stage at the rally.

Pracha Prasobdee, People Power, Samut Prakan, leader of the Great Public Group for the Protection of Democracy, said his team gathered at Sanam Luang and Thammasat University to monitor the protest by the PAD. His team was fully equipped with computers and tape recorders to record the incident to be used as evidence.

The group would resort to legal measures against PAD leaders such as Sondhi if he violated bail conditions by joining the protest.


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