Da Bangkok Post del 14/03/2006
Originale su http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/14Mar2006_news01.php

Fears of violence

Chamlong vows to stay put until PM agrees to resign --- Principle of 'ahimsa' to be respected by demonstrators --- Thaksin tells rural poor he wants 3 more years in office

The People's Alliance for Democracy's decision to demonstrate in front of Government House after protesters head for the country's seat of power this morning has raised fears of violence breaking out.

Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, a leading member of the PAD and head of the ''Dharma Army'', yesterday pledged to stay at Government House until caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra steps down.

He insisted demonstrators would strictly adhere to the principle of ahimsa (non-violence) until victory is achieved.

''We won't play along with any provocation and will remain peaceful,'' he said, adding that it was the authorities' responsibility to ensure peace.

People from many quarters voiced their fears of possible violence after it was reported that groups of Mr Thaksin's supporters from the provinces planned to arrive at the scene of the PAD demonstration this morning.

The tension heightened after the TV Pool on Sunday night broadcast footage of the 15-minute audience on May 20, 1992, of then prime minister Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon and protest leader Maj-Gen Chamlong with His Majesty the King, during which His Majesty urged the two adversaries to work together to rebuild the country in the wake of the bloody Black May protest.

But the authorities yesterday tried to allay these concerns. Government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee quoted Mr Thaksin as telling key Thai Rak Thai party members yesterday that officials concerned had to guarantee safety for protesters as he still believed they would ensure their protests remained peaceful.

''Tomorrow's rally will be another round of political expression under democratic rules. It is normal if it is understood as a stage for expression in line with democracy,'' Mr Surapong said.

He said officials had asked convoys of pro-Thaksin supporters not to confront the protesters at Sanam Luang or Government House. He dismissed suggestions that the government would declare a state of emergency.

Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Wannasathit, responsible for security, said the pro-Thaksin groups from the provinces have been advised to remain at Chatuchak public park or Mor Chit bus terminal to avoid creating any conflict with the anti-Thaksin movement. He vowed to accept responsibility for any violence breaking out.

Suriyasai Katasila, a spokesman for the PAD, told reporters yesterday that protest leaders had coordinated with the police for the demonstration that will see an estimated 200,000 protesters in both Phitsanulok road in front of Government House and on one lane of Ratchadamnoen avenue crossing Phitsanulok road, practically surrounding the seat of government.

A major stage will be set up at the intersection of Ratchadamnoen and Phitsanulok roads while smaller stages next to Government House facing the Office of the Civil Service Commission and the Education Ministry would also be erected. ''The protest will adhere to peaceful means. Nothing will be damaged. This way of non-violent struggle has proved to be successful worldwide,'' Mr Suriyasai said. He did not care to guess how long the protesters might hold out.

Mr Suriyasai reiterated the alliance's agreement in principle to holding negotiations with Mr Thaksin's government on condition they be open, transparent and broadcast live on television.

Respected social thinker Dr Prawase Wasi yesterday pleaded for statesman and Privy Council chairman Gen Prem Tinsulanonda to act as a mediator in talks between all sides in a bid to end the political impasse. He said he believed both the demonstrators and the government would not resort to violence provided there were no ''third party'' provocateurs.

The PAD-led rallies have so far proven to be peaceful and in line with democratic development, he said. He said he believed the government would not resort to the use of force.

Mr Thaksin, however, will not be at Government House to greet the protesters as he continued his election campaign in Ubon Ratchathani yesterday. Mr Thaksin will not return to preside over the cabinet meeting today but is expected to join it via teleconferencing.

Pol Gen Chidchai denied Mr Thaksin's absence from Government House was a move to avoid confronting the protesters, saying his election campaigning had been scheduled for some time.

Buoyed by the presence of about 50,000 supporters in Ubon Ratchathani, Mr Thaksin said he wanted to stay in power for three more years to ''rescue the people from poverty''.

Without the main opposition parties, he said he would take the opportunity to amend hundreds of laws deemed to be unfair to poor people as well as setting up a panel to achieve political reform.

''If Thaksin loses, the people will also lose. In the next three years, I would like to conclude my job. After that I will be over 60 and too old,'' he told the crowd.

He warned Bangkokians against joining the protests, saying he had been told there may be provocateurs among the crowds.

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