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Thai 'red shirts' sticking to non-violence

Publication Date : 29-04-2014


Pro-government "red shirt" leaders see non-violence as the key to winning the "war" against Thailand's old elites, but warn it is difficult to control different factions in the sprawling movement.

Speaking at yesterday's funeral of poet and red shirt activist Kamol Duangphasuk, 45, who was shot dead in Bangkok last Wednesday, the movement's co-leader, Weng Tojirakarn, said the shooting "was an assassination".

But he added: "We are trying hard to calm down the emotional reaction because non-violence is the only way we can win this."

The red shirts, who support Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, will gather at the edge of Bangkok on May 6. That is the last day of hearings by the Constitutional Court on abuse of power charges against the embattled premier. A ruling is expected very soon after.

If Yingluck is found guilty and removed from office, the outcome could further enrage the red shirt movement that propelled her to power in the 2011 election.

The funeral yesterday allowed the different red shirt factions to show a united front. Almost all major leaders turned up. Thaksin and his son sent wreaths.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva met the supreme commander of the armed forces, General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, in one of a round of meetings with different parties to find a way out of the dangerously volatile political stalemate.

But Abhisit - his Democrat Party's boycott of snap elections on Feb 2 contributed to its failure - has found little support from even his one-time deputy, Suthep Thaugsuban, who leads the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which is determined to drive Yingluck out of office.

Abhisit told reporters Gen Thanasak "underscored that political problems must be solved through political means".

The powerful army, knowing it will face a backlash if it interferes in the political crisis, has thus far stayed on the sidelines.

There is still wrangling over the date of a new election.

Puea Thai, confident of winning, wants an early date, saying all parties must contest and pledge to carry out a reform agenda and then hold another poll. But the PDRC, which insists reforms must take place before any election, has vowed to sabotage it the same way it did the Feb 2 poll.

The protracted crisis, which enters its sixth month this week, has left the country with a barely functioning government since last December, and seen more than 20 people killed and hundreds injured.

The economy is also tanking, with consumer confidence ebbing and tourists staying away.

Kokaew Pikulthong, a prominent red shirt leader, told The Straits Times yesterday: "Nobody knows who will win this political game. We are still in the middle of a war. But this war uses legal weapons, not bullets - for now."


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