By NIPHAWAN KAEWRAKMUK
THE SNAP decision of the opposition Democrat Party to call a nationwide rally starting today came on Tuesday night. It followed House Speaker Somsak Kiatsuranont’s impromptu decision on the same day to call a special meeting of the House today to deliberate the blanket amnesty bill in the second and third readings.
The Democrat Party meeting on Tuesday feared the government would rush to pass the bill in one day, leaving it too late for them to call a rally, a party source said.
However, the Democrat Party’s goal for this mass rally is to block the blanket amnesty law or force the government to withdraw the bill – but not to overthrow the government, the source said.
The source said the party was well aware that even if the government were to be toppled, it would eventually be re-elected.
The latest version of the bill would grant amnesty to all who were involved in political protests between September 19, 2006 and August 8, 2013, with the exception of those accused of violating the lese majeste law.
Any strategy outside the Parliament, or street rallying, will be led by Surat Thani MP Suthep Thaugsuban and Phatthalung MP Nipit Intarasombat. They have coordinated their alliances, including with former People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders Chamlong Srimuang, Somkiat Pongpaiboon and Panthep Pourpongpan, and the Green Group’s Suriyasai Katasila.
In preparation to lead the protests, five leading Democrats have resigned their positions on the party’s executive board. The five are deputy leaders Korn Chatikavanij, Thaworn Senneam, Issara Somchai and Siriwan Prassachaksattru and party executive Satit Wongnongtaey. They will keep their House seats, however.
The resignations were meant to pre-empt any attempt to dissolve the Democrat Party, or any lawsuit, by citing their direct involvement in the street protests. All will take the lead on the rally stage.
Finding a budget to support the rally should not be a problem as key party leaders will pool their money.
The rally against the amnesty bill will start from 6pm today at Samsen Railway Station in Bangkok. The venue was chosen as the rally site because it is outside the Internal Security Act area and also an open space.
The MPs expect to mobilise around 50,000 protesters within the first three days and more, the source said.
“We don’t want a prolonged rally but a quick finish,” another source said.
If more people joined the rally, the opposition would announce a step up on Sunday for a further measure, he said. He added they would ask the protesters for a move to deny the government’s power on Monday.
If the government persists with the bill, the party will continue the rally and wait until the International Court of Justice’s verdict on the Preah Vihear case on November 11.
For the opposition’s strategy to defeat the bill in the Parliament, party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva will take the leading role, with chief opposition whip Jurin Laksanawisit.
Filibusters will be used during the House meeting today.