Thai protestors prepare for siege of Parliament

December 28th, 2008 - 7:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Abhisit VejjajivaBangkok, Dec 28 (DPA) Thousands of anti-government protestors gathered at Bangkok’s “Royal Grounds” Sunday as others erected barricades outside parliament in preparation for a major demonstration this week aimed at toppling the new administration.In a scene familiar to Bangkok residents, more than 100 members of the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) set up barricades near Parliament House to protect themselves from 3,000 police who have been deployed to keep the peace in the area.

The demonstrators erected tents and set up cooking facilities to accommodate thousands of protestors expected to descend on Parliament Monday and Tuesday to demand the new government step down.

Thousands of DAAD followers gathered at Sanam Luang, the Royal Grounds in Bangkok, Sunday evening to hear anti-government speeches and prepare to march on Parliament.

The “red shirts” of the DAAD are the counterpart to the “yellow shirts”, or followers of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which toppled the last government.

The DAAD has vowed to prevent a new coalition government under Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from reading his policy statement to parliament Monday or Tuesday.

It is traditional practice for a new cabinet to kick off its administration with the reading of a policy statement.

The DAAD, in its attempt to block the reading, is imitating the tactics of the PAD, which tried to block the former coalition government under ex-premier Somchai Wongsawat from launching its administration by staging a mass rally outside Parliament on Oct 7, blocking legislators from entering the building.

The protest prompted a police crackdown in which two demonstrators died but could not prevent the policy statement from being read.

Bangkok police commanders have warned of a similar crackdown on the “red shirts” if the demonstration turns to violence.

The PAD, a loose coalition of forces adamantly opposed to the return to power of coup-ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, finally succeeded in toppling Somchai’s government after occupying Bangkok’s two airports between Nov 26 to Dec 3.

After Somchai’s fall, a new coalition government was formed under Abhisit, leader of the former opposition Democrat Party, last month.

The “red shirts,” led by a pro-Thaksin clique, claim Abhisit’s coalition government lacks legitimacy, as the Democrats failed to win a majority in the Dec 23, 2007, general election and have allegedly been helped to power by the Thai military and the PAD.

After almost six months of political turmoil in Bangkok, many of Thailand’s so-called political elite have welcomed the Abhisit-led government.

Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda Sunday expressed confidence that Abhisit, who paid him a courtesy call earlier in the day, would unite the country and lead it out of crisis.

“I am glad to have the prime minister named Abhisit,” said Prem, according to The Nation online news service.

While the PAD enjoyed the moral support of many middle class Thais and the Bangkok-based elite - which protected them from harsher crackdowns by the military and the police - the DAAD followers are not expected to be granted similar immunity from law enforcement.

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