Free Press Journal

Thai court prevents govt from using force as protests rage


Bangkok: A Thai court today ordered the government not to use force to quell protests against embattled Premier Yingluck Shinawatra, a day after a police crackdown left five people dead and 70 others injured.

The Civil Court ruled that the government had the authority to impose an emergency decree during a critical situation, but not to the extent of using it to break up the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s (PDRC) peaceful and unarmed demonstrations.

The court prohibited the government and the Centre for Maintenance of Peace and Order (CMPO) from breaking up the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s rallies and from seizing the protesters’ equipment.

But the court said the government could impose the emergency decree, a special law enabling the administrative branch to resolve problems during a critical situation, though with discretion, the Bangkok Post reported.

It cited an earlier ruling by the Constitution Court that the PDRC’s rally is lawful as long as it is peaceful and without weapons.

Meanwhile, a criminal court approved arrest warrants against five leaders of the anti government People’s Democratic Reform Committee for blocking the advance voting on January 26.

Earlier today, defiant protesters in a convoy of 200 cars led by protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban surrounded the office of the Permanent Secretary of Defence in northern Bangkok, which Yingluck and the cabinet have been using as a temporary office since protesters shut down Government House in December.

The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) led by uthep said that demonstrators would follow Yingluck wherever she goes and would target businesses owned by her wealthy family.

“Wherever she is, wherever she sleeps, we will go after her,” Suthep told the crowd. “(We) must intensify our fight and we will attack Shinawatra businesses and their funding sources.”

The move came after the caretaker government mobilised thousands of policemen to disperse anti-government protesters at several sites across the city.

Yesterday, hundreds of riot police moved across Bangkok to reclaim buildings seized by protesters resulting in clashes that left five people dead, including one policeman.

The PDRC said it will also seek a Civil Court injunction to protect the right to demonstrate, which it says was abused yesterday by the police attempts to reclaim rally sites.

The protesters backed by the main opposition Democrat Party have been rallying in Bangkok since November to try to oust Yingluck, whom they view as a proxy for her elder brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former premier who was toppled in a military coup in 2006.

They want the government to hand over power to an unelected people’s council to implement reforms they say are needed to end corruption.

Yingluck called for a snap poll on February 2 to defuse the crisis but the Democrats boycotted it and protesters blocked polling stations in many areas.
The premier ran into further trouble yesterday as the National Anti-Corruption Commission said it had grounds to press charges and initiate impeachment proceedings against her for alleged negligence and dereliction of duty in a rice pledging scheme.

The scheme has cost the country dearly and upset farmers who have not been paid for rice they have sold to the government and are now in serious financial trouble.