Redshirts Ready for ‘Million-man’ March – The Irrawaddy

Anti-government Redshirt supporters say that the Thai government must choose between suppression of its proposed “million-man” peaceful protest on March 14, or dissolution of the current Democrat-led government.

A supporter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra holds his portrait during a protest at Democracy Monument in Bangkok last year. (Photo: Getty Images)

“Our aim is to bring down the administration,” said Sean Boonpracong, a spokesman for the Redhshirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)

“We will use only peaceful means,” he said, acknowledging that Redshirt violence at the disbanded Asian summit in Pattaya and in Bangkok during the Songkran 2009 protests damaged the anti-government cause.

How a peaceful protest will force the government to choose between suppression of the protest on the one hand, and dissolution of the parliament on the other, was not clarified.

However, senior UDD member Jaran Ditthapichai told media at a Bangkok press conference on Thursday that if the protest is met with violence, then a civil war in Thailand could be possible.

“If the government suppresses us, then they will have declared civil war.” he said. “If this happens, you will not see elections of democracy in Thailand for five, maybe ten years.”

The Redshirts have pledged a peaceful march, with estimates between 500,000 and 1.3 million given as a possible turnout. UDD leaders believe that substantial portions of the army and police support their cause, which they feel will help bring down a government that was “established in the army barracks,” according to Sean Boonpracong.

The current prime minister assumed his position after anti-Thaksin Yellowshirt protestors occupied Government House and the country’s international airports, in protest at what they decried as corruption during the Thaksin era, and under the elected pro-Thaksin administrations that followed the restoration of civilian rule after the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin from office.

Redshirts saw these protests as stemming from an elitist aversion to Thaksin’s “pro-poor” policies. Yellowshirts depicted Thaksin as a threat to the country’s monarchy, which the UDD today again countered by saying that loyalty to the head of state is a prerequisite for membership.

Amid concerns that the Redshirts could seek to provoke a confrontation with the security forces, Boonpracong backtracked on a prior “call to arms” issued by other UDD members, but cautioned that “there may be certain elements that we cannot control.” He blamed the government for trying to portray the Redshirts as violence-prone.

The UDD has said it will not form a political party even if the government is dissolved and new elections called.

The pro-Thaksin Peua Thai party said on Thursday that it backs the UDD March, despite recent ranncour between the UDD and Peua Thai groups, with the latter saying that the one million turnout for the March 14 protest was not feasible. However, on Wednesday the Puea Thai MP for Chiang Mai, Surapong Towijakchaikul, said that between 40,000 and 50,000 people from the North are expected to travel to Bangkok to participate.

The protest comes after last Friday’s Supreme Court decision to seize THB 46.37 billion of assets formerly belonging to Thaksin Shinawatra, who was Prime Minister of Thailand prior to being ousted by a September 2006 military coup.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Wednesday told Thai government agencies to look at ways to bring civil and criminal charges against Thaksin in the wake of the court ruling.

The Redshirt movement says that pro-Thaksin elements are just one of many smaller entities that comprise what they depict as a larger, pro-democracy movement.

The Bangkok press conference was addressed by former Communist rebels in Thailand, now part of the UDD. The UDD denies that it receives funding from Thaksin. The former PM, who is believed to be in Dubai, regularly addresses Redshirt rallies by video link.

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