99 elephants banned from joining Thai political protest

The Huffington Post

AP  |  May 23, 2007 02:17 AM EST


BANGKOK, Thailand —
Authorities are preparing to stop 99 elephants and thousands of
villagers from entering Thailand’s capital to protest the possible
dissolution of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s political
party, the military said Wednesday.

“The authorities are trying to convince the elephant owners not to
bring their animals to Bangkok. We have to use all means to stop the
elephants from joining the political rally,” said Lt. Gen. Prayuth
Chanocha, commander of the 1st Army, which is responsible for
peacekeeping in Bangkok.

He said the protesters and pachyderms plan to enter Bangkok on May
29, a day before the Constitutional Court is due to deliver a verdict
that could lead to the disbanding of both Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party
and the opposition Democrat Party for allegedly breaking the law during
an election in April last year.

The leaders of both parties have publicly promised to accept the
court’s ruling, but some senior members of Thai Rak Thai are
threatening to stage mass protests if their party is disbanded.

Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup last September after
months of street protests and flawed elections. Now living abroad, he
and his family are under investigation for alleged corruption and other

Prayuth cited intelligence sources as saying that thousands of
villagers from northern and northeastern Thailand, strongholds of the
Thai Rak Thai party, were poised to travel to Bangkok with 99
elephants. Nine is an auspicious number in Thailand.

Defense Minister Gen. Bunrod Somtad has threatened to declare a
state of emergency if the political protest turns into chaos, but Prime
Minister Surayud Chulanont says he anticipates no violence.

Thai Rak Thai is accused of financing obscure parties to run against
it in the election as a way of getting around rules that require a
minimum voter turnout in constituencies where single candidates run

The Democrat Party, which boycotted the election, is accused of
conniving with the small parties to lure Thai Rak Thai into illegally
funding them.



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