About 10,000 red-shirt supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra rallied yesterday to pressure the government over their petition seeking a royal pardon for the fugitive ex-premier.
The red shirts last night blocked all roads around Government House as they surrounded the compound to protest against the government’s delay in processing their petition.
Phitsanulok Road was blocked from Nang Lerng junction and Rajdamnoen Nok Road was blocked from the Royal Plaza. The red shirts gathered in huge numbers on Phitsanulok Road between Chamai Maruchet Bridge and the Misakawan intersection.
Thaksin phoned in last night to tell his supporters not to place too much hope on this government, which he said “has done a lot of bad things” that his administration had avoided.
“This government is afraid of my return and of fighting against me politically. So they have done nothing” to speed up the process for a royal pardon, he said. Thaksin also urged the red shirts “to fight on and not to give up”.
He said he was travelling, so he had opted to phone in rather than broadcast his speech in a video link-up.
The protesters want the government to speed up the processing of their petition, which they say at least 3.5 million people signed in support of Thaksin, who fled the country in August last year to escape a two-year jail term for corruption.
“Red-shirt people are rallying today to ask about the progress of our petition,” protest leader Jatuporn Promphan told reporters, accusing the government of trying to delay the process. “We are here to send a signal to the government … We will come back by the end of the month. The protest will not end quickly,” said Jatuporn, who is also an MP of the opposition Pheu Thai Party.
“We are here to ask for justice, to correct what was wrong,” said Nattawut Saikua, another leader of the pro-Thaksin demonstrators. “He [Thaksin] did not receive justice and we are here on his behalf.”
The red-shirt leaders announced on stage that they were asking police to allow them 30 metres closer to the Government House compound by removing concrete blocks because more protesters had turned up.
Police Maj-General Wichai Sangprapai, commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau’s Region 1, said police had decided to give the protesters more room to avoid clashes with security officials.
He said they would not be allowed to go closer to the Government House compound because the area had been declared off limits under the Internal Security Act. The protesters will definitely not be allowed to go inside and must hold a peaceful rally, he added.
Police threw a blanket of security around the area. The red-shirt leaders took to the stage to address the crowd, alternating with music performances.
More than 6,000 police and military officers were deployed in and around Government House as part of the tightened security measures implemented under the Internal Security Act imposed by the Cabinet earlier.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was in Sa Kaew doing a TV commercial shoot for the government’s Thai Khemkhaeng scheme, showed his concern over the protest in Bangkok by asking about the developments in the capital.
He asked caretaker Government Spokesman Panitan Watanayagorn if he would be able to enter his office inside Government House when he returns to work tomorrow.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party Bangkok MP Kowit Tharana yesterday attacked the red shirts for staging a protest by blocking roads, damaging the confidence in the country, creating an atmosphere of terror and scaring away investors.
“Have they not hurt the country enough? The leaders and those pulling the strings behind the protests from abroad have given orders to destroy the country,” he said.
He said the red shirts had picked a bad time to stage their protests, as this is the time that all Thais should be demonstrating their loyalty to His Majesty the King and pray that he recover from his illness. “The red shirts have staged the protest with the intention of seeking financial backing from their big boss, but without any moral conscience,” he added.