All eyes on the reds and court ruling
The Criminal Court order aimed at reining in a protest on Thursday involving the red shirts should serve as a wake-up call for all sides to rethink the pros and cons of street demonstrations.In advance of a bail hearing for more than two dozen red-shirt leaders, deputy chief judge Jumpol Choowong has banned the reds from using loudspeakers, street hawking, blocking traffic and disorderly conduct.
Police will be deployed to enforce the law and ensure peace because, despite the court order, the red shirts still plan to rally in a show of moral support for their leaders.
Organisers are, however, encouraging the red shirts to show up at the planned rally in full force although they say they will not allow loudspeakers or street hawking.
Red-shirt chairwoman Thida Thawornseth said she would comply with the order before reminding the court that it should be mindful of its responsibility should the outcome of the bail review cause the crowds to turn unruly.
Thida's remarks hint at the gravity of the situation. The red shirts are worried that some of their leaders might have their bail revoked. Thida has made it clear that the court might face the wrath of the reds should the bail review be unfavourable.
When red-shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan attended a bail hearing on July 23, red protesters disrupted traffic and used loudspeakers to air their views against the judiciary. Due to their unrestrained activities, the protesters disturbed all judicial proceedings held in the court compound on that day.
The July 23 rally was not the first time the red shirts had acted as if they were above the law. In the past year after Pheu Thai Party came to power, the red shirts have not even bothered to apply for a permit to use loudspeakers in public places.
The police have curiously and repeatedly omitted to enforce city regulations. Time and again the red shirts have been allowed to do whatever they want at rally sites.
The public will remain in suspense as to how the red shirts will react if the bail review turns out to go against their leaders. Among those at risk of having their bail revoked is Yotwarit Chooklom, aka Jeng Dokjik.
In a controversial rally speech in June, Yotwarit disclosed the telephone numbers of Constitution Court judges and encouraged protesters to harass them ahead of a crucial verdict on the charter amendment bill.
Four key red-shirts, including Kokaew Pikulthong, have parliamentary immunity, which allows them to defer bail hearings, otherwise they too might be at risk of going back to the remand cells.
Leaders of the red-shirt movement are fully aware of the bail conditions set by the courts. But they opt to flout the law in order to continue leading political rallies.
Since 2005, the courts have handed down a number of landmark decisions which have found protests involving red and yellow shirts to be unconstitutional. Yet organisers refuse to abide by the rule of law, although they cite justice and democracy to justify their activism.
It is high time that the yellow shirts accept the reality that mobs cannot overthrow an elected government.
It is also time for the red shirts to wake up to the fact that from the days of the Roman Empire to the Cultural Revolution of China and to modern democracies, mobs can shield neither a government or a political ideology.