Thai police seek protest leaders

BBC News

Last Updated: Monday, 23 July 2007, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK

 

An anti-coup protester clashes with police in the Thai capital Bangkok
Protesters say police used tear gas and batons to disperse them


Police in Thailand are seeking the arrest of leaders of an
anti-government movement, after violent protests in the capital
Bangkok.

Sunday’s clashes broke out after protesters surrounded
the home of a top official they accuse of orchestrating last year’s
military coup.

More than 100 people, half of them police, were injured in the late-night clashes, officials and medics said.

Six people have already been charged over the protests, according to police.

It was the first violence since the military ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in September 2006.

Senior advisor

Since the coup there have been regular protests against
military rule, but until now none has been very big and none violent,
says the BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok.

That changed on Sunday night when police tried to clear
several thousand demonstrators from outside the home of Prem
Tinsulanonda.

Mr Prem, 86, is the most senior advisor to the Thai king
and, our correspondent says, arguably among the most powerful people in
the country.

The protesters accuse him of a playing a key role in planning last year’s bloodless coup.

Demonstrators threw rocks and bottles as police moved in
to disperse them, and police responded with teargas and water canons.
Dozens of people were injured on both sides.

Six people have been charged with disturbing the peace
and injuring police officers, and police say they are now seeking
arrest warrants for eight leaders of the group that organised the
protests.

Constitution campaign

Mr Prem enjoys great respect because of his position in the palace and his successful stint in government in the 1980s.

So pictures published in the Thai media of protesters
throwing rocks at his house are likely to cost the anti-military
movement a lot of public sympathy, at a time when it has been trying to
rally opposition to the new constitution, our correspondent says.

A military-appointed commission has completed the new
constitution and a nationwide referendum on the draft is to take place
on 19 August.

If it passes, the Thai military says democratic elections could be held by the end of the year.

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Tacoma, WA – July 24, 2007

Thai activists vow to keep protesting

By AMEBIC ABUJA Associated Press Writer

Published: July 23rd, 2007 09:29 AM


Enlarge image

Apichart Weerawong AP Photo

Anti-coup protesters and supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra raise arms during a rally at the Royal Ground in Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, July 23, 2007. About 200 police officers and 70 protesters were hurt in a clash late Sunday in a protest outside the home of Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda, former prime minister and top adviser of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whom the protesters accused of acting behind the military coup to overthrew Thaksin from power. About 1,000 people took part in the Monday’s rally.


Enlarge image

Apichart Weerawong AP Photo

Anti-coup protesters and supporters of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra listen to speeches of organizers as they gather after a clash with Thai police officers at the Royal Ground in Bangkok, Thailand Monday, July 23, 2007. About 200 police officers and 70 protesters were hurt in a clash late Sunday during a protest outside the home of former Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda who is also top adviser of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whom the protesters accused of acting behind the military coup to overthrew Thaksin from power last September.


Enlarge image

David Longstreath AP Photo

Bangkok riot police retake control of the area outside former Thai Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda’s home Sunday, July 22, 2007, following clashes with anti-coup government protestors. Demonstrators clashed with police outside the house of the former Thai leader whom they accuse of instigating last year’s coup against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Anti-government leaders said Monday they would continue their protests, despite facing potential criminal charges after a weekend demonstration turned into a riot that left 270 people injured.

About 200 policemen and 70 protesters were injured in clashes Sunday night when several thousand people demonstrated outside the Bangkok home of former Prime Minister Perm Tinsulanonda, said police chief Lt. Gen. Adisorn Nontree.

The protesters accuse Prem of instigating a coup last year that ousted the elected government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They demand that he resign as top adviser to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Prem, 86, is also a former army commander respected by many in the military, including the group that staged last year’s coup. He was at home during Sunday’s tumult.

The protest, the latest in a series, came as Thailand prepares for the restoration of electoral democracy by the end of the year. A new military-backed draft constitution will be submitted to a national referendum in August, and national elections are expected in December.

Police filed charges against an alleged ringleader and five other people accused of involvement in the violence, which came at a protest whose leaders were mostly former top members of Thaksin’s now-disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party.

The suspects were charged with “causing chaos, obstructing the work of authorities, and damage of state property, and they include a protest leader, Noparut Worachitwutikul,” police Col. Supisan Pakdeenarunart told The Associated Press.

“This is not the end, and we will continue to fight for democracy until they step down,” protest leader Jakrapob Penkair said, referring to the military chiefs who led the coup.

Protest leaders said they would file assault complaints against the police.

Sunday night’s street-fighting began when police tried to detain protest leaders but were forced back by the crowd. Sporadic charges by police using pepper spray set off street fighting and wild chases.

The military-installed government that replaced Thaksin’s after the Sept. 19 coup originally met with public favor, but its popularity has declined and there have been increasing calls for a relaxation of its political and social restrictions.

Thaksin, in exile since the coup, called on supporters to remain peaceful.

“Reconciliation is what I expect to see this government to put more effort for,” he told reporters in Hong Kong.

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Arrests planned after Thai coup protests

By Amy Kazmin

Published: July 24 2007 01:25 | Last updated: July 24 2007 01:25

Thai police said on Monday that they would issue arrest warrants for six leaders of the former ruling Thai Rak Thai party for allegedly orchestrating violent anti-coup protests in which around 100 people, including 76 police, were injured at the weekend.

Anti-coup protesters, including supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted prime minister, clashed on Sunday with police protecting the home of General Prem Tinsulanonda, the 86-year-old chief adviser to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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Mr Thaksin’s supporters accuse Gen Prem, a prime minister in the 1980s, of instigating the September coup d’état that ousted Mr Thaksin, who was popular among Thailand’s rural poor but loathed by Bangkok’s elites for his authoritarian style and alleged corruption.

Public discussion of Gen Prem’s role in the end of Mr Thaksin’s premiership remains muted, deterred by Thai laws that make it a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison to say anything considered offensive to the dignity of the monarchy, which is supposed to be above politics.

Authorities – who said two police were seriously injured in Sunday’s confrontation – have arrested one alleged ringleader of the protest and five other activists on charges of “causing chaos, obstructing authorities, and damaging state property.”

Police said they planned to issue arrest warrants this week against eight other “ringleaders”, including six former members of Mr Thaksin’s disbanded Thai Rak Thai party.

The protest, attended by several thousand people, was small compared with the massive anti-Thaksin demonstrations that rocked much of Bangkok last year. But the anti-coup leaders’ decision to target Gen Prem was highly provocative.

The clash comes as Thailand’s military-installed administration is gearing up for a national referendum on a new constitution, drafted to replace the 1997 settlement abolished in the aftermath of the military coup.

Thai elites blamed the 10-year-old charter – crafted to boost political stability after a series of fractious coalition governments – for facilitating Mr Thaksin’s emergence as a political strongman.

The new constitution envisions using judicial appointees as a check on the power of elected politicians. It is expected to return Thailand to the era of fragile coalitions.

Former Thai Rak Thai officials have called for the rejection of the new charter, a result that would be seen as a major rebuke to the September coup. However, most analysts predict its easy passage, given the coup leaders’ promise that adoption of the new constitution would be followed swiftly by new elections.

Investors appeared unshaken by the clash, as the Thai stock market rose 1.42 per cent on Monday.

Meanwhile, Mr Thaksin was in Hong Kong on Monday for the launch of Thaksin’s 24 Hours, a Chinese-language account of his experience during the military coup.

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Thailand police seek coup protest leaders

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 – BANGKOK, Reuters

Thai police sought on Monday to arrest eight leaders of an anti-coup protest that turned violent at the weekend, resulting in injuries to 100 police and demonstrators.

Six protesters have already been detained for throwing rocks and bottles at police lines outside the house of Privy Council chief and top royal adviser Prem Tinsulanonda, whom they accuse of masterminding last year’s putsch against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Bangkok police chief Adisorn Nonsee said the courts had been asked to issue arrest warrants for the leaders of the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD), as the protest movement calls itself.

From now on, officers would be allowed to use greater force to bring unruly demonstrations under control, especially as the political temperature rose in the run-up to a referendum on a new post-coup constitution on Aug. 19, he added.

“If the situation escalates, police can use batons, shields and other equipment, including tear gas, to restore order,” Adisorn said.

More than 40 people, including police officers, were taken to hospital for minor head wounds and other injuries after the Sunday evening clashes, hospital officials said.

DAAD, a mix of Thaksin loyalists and academics opposed to what was the 18th coup in 75 years of on-off democracy, vowed to keep up the pressure on former army chief and prime minister Prem, who remains one of Thailand’s most powerful figures.

“All we wished for was the resignation of General Prem Tinsulanonda as the leader of the Privy Council,” DAAD said in a statement.

“But his stern reply to us was in the form of beating and assault on male and female alike with no love and respect for their own countrymen.”

At face value, the coup stemmed from middle-class street protests in 2006 against Thaksin’s autocratic style and huge personal wealth, which his opponents say he wielded unfairly to secure unassailable support from rural voters.

But analysts say it was as much about a royalist military and corporate elite removing a nouveau riche, ethnic Chinese businessman who had encroached too far on their traditional turf.

Thaksin was in New York at the time of the coup and has spent most of the interim in London, where he has bought an English football club, or travelling round Asia playing golf and giving interviews and lectures.

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