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Thailand Protesters Unite: Leaders Aim to Trigger Early Election

Friday, November 8, 2013
PHUKET: Students from many colleges and universities have been given permission to skip classes today and tomorrow as thousands mass on Bangkok's streets and call for political reform in Thailand.

Opposition to the Amnesty Bill is evolving into a campaign to bring down the Pheu Thai-led Government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Technical college pupils who would normally fight gang wars on the streets of the Thai capital are uniting under the Network for Reform banner.

Numbers are inexact but the protests on the streets of Bangkok are being classed as one of the biggest demonstrations in 40 years.

With doctors, judges, businesspeople and academics all venting their opposition to what's seen as government-engendered support for corruption, pressure for an early national election is also swelling.

One of the most telling moments came yesterday when Thailand's former Deputy Police Commander, General Wisut Wanitchabud, spoke to a crowd of his disenchantment.

He said he had resigned on September 30.

''I could no longer force myself to stay with the system of how the police force is structured under this government,'' he said, pointing out that many promotions appeared to be for political reasons, not on merit.

''We need change in Thailand for the sake of the country,'' he told the crowd.

Observers see the events of the past few days as a potential rout for Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin.

Passage of the legislation would have allowed Khun Thaksin to return to Thailand. He fled in 2006 and was subsequently found guilty of corruption.

Many of his former supporters have joined opponents of the Amnesty Bill, which passed through the House of Representatives on November 1 but is likely to be formally and permanently derailed if the Senate votes today.

Some senators have said they won't even turn up to vote, raising the possibility that the bill could fail for lack of a quorum. Whatever the outcome today, the proposal is a dead duck.

Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Tourism, Senator Tunyaratt Achariyachai, told Phuketwan yesterday that the Amnesty Bill will not pass.

''It's inappropriate and won't happen. We have to let the court judge these matters.''

Under the legislation, thousands of corrupt officials would have had charges and sentences dropped going back as far as 2004 as part of Khun Yingluck's plan for national forgiveness and reconciliation.

Long-time Shinawatra opponent and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban forecast yesterday that the protesters would establish a ''Population Court'' from Monday and organise a vote on whether or not the government is needed.

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