World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of pro-government protesters gathered in the Thai capital Saturday to show their support for the embattled government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the subject of a string of corruption and abuse of power investigations.
A parade of buses and pick up trucks, mostly from northeastern, northern and central provinces, brought "Red Shirt" protesters to a large avenue on the outskirts of Bangkok where access was controlled by police and military checkpoints. It was the largest gathering of the movement, officially called the United Front for Democracy and against Dictatorship (UDD), in several months.
“The judiciary wants to overthrow the interim government and set up an unconstitutional government. This is unacceptable to us," Korkaew Pikulthong, a "Red Shirt" leader and former MP, told the Anadolu Agency. "That is why we come here to show that a lot of people in the country don’t agree.”
Thousands of people braved the scorching sun to sit on plastic sheets in the middle of the avenue. In front of them, a stage was decorated with a large painting depicting a set of scales with the Thai constitution in one bowl, and an armored tank in the other.
Over the picture, the slogan: “Stop destroying democracy!”
“We came here to show the elite and the high bureaucracy that we can see what these independent agencies and the Constitutional Court are doing," Wichana, a 56-year-old shop owner from the southern province of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, told AA.
"The elite is trying to deceive us by pretending to play within democratic rules, but it is just a lie,” added Wichina who only wanted to be known by his first name.
Several cases have been filed against Yingluck, who has been demoted to a "caretaker prime minister" position since the National Assembly was dissolved December 7.
On April 2, the Constitutional Court accepted a case filed against Yingluck in relation to her unlawful transfer of high-ranking civil servant Thawil Pliensri to a powerless adviser position. The move was done to give Pliensri’s position to outgoing police chief Wichean Potephosree, who, himself, was removed from his job to make way for Police General Priewpan Damapong, a relative of Yingluck.
The premier has 15 days to present her defense. If the court rules against her, she will be immediately demoted.
Yingluck is also facing a "dereliction of duty” case filed with the Anti-Corruption Commission, an independent agency created by the Thai Constitution. The case is related to a rice-subsidies scheme criticized for opening the door to massive corruption, which Yingluck is accused of doing nothing to stop. The scheme has caused massive financial losses to the country.
The commission will decide whether to indict her in coming weeks. If it proceeds, her position will be suspended and an impeachment process will start in front of the Senate, which is dominated by the Democrat Party opposition.
Most of those at Saturday's rally - which is expected to continue until Tuesday - were highly critical of what they consider to be the “anti-government attitude” of the independent agencies and the courts.
“The powers in a democracy; the executive, the legislative and the judicial powers, should balance each other. But the current conditions give more power to the courts," protest leader Pikulthong told AA.
"They have the actual power and nobody can check them, that is the problem," he added.
The "Red Shirt" movement is supportive of the government and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's elder brother, who led the country from 2001 to 2006 before being overthrown in a military coup. Thailand has been lurching from one crisis to another since then.
Yingluck has faced a wave of opposition protests since her government pushed through an amnesty in 2013 that would have lifted a 2008 corruption conviction against Thaksin. Confronted by massive demonstrations, the government withdrew the bill, but the opposition has alleged corruption by the government and Shinawatra family.
Yingluck dissolved parliament December 9 and called February 2 elections, which were disrupted by the anti-government movement - the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) - who want an unelected "people’s council" to run Thailand until the political system is reformed.Last Mod: 05 Nisan 2014, 12:42