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Political Tension Eases in Bangkok



Pitak Siam leader Retired General Boonlert Kaewprasit


BANGKOK – The short-lived anti-government rally on Saturday resulted in the injury of 82 people, authorities said on Sunday, while the government is assessing whether to lift a special security law which helped curb the rally turnover.

Among those injured in the clashes between Pitak Siam protesters and security officials which involved the use of tear gase and sound trucks, 52 were ordinary people, including 31 men and 21 women, and the rest were police officers and one soldier. the Public Health Ministry announced.

A protester displays a placard during an anti-government protest in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 24, 2012. More than 100 anti-government protesters have been detained for interrogation after the clash with police on Saturday morning

Altogether 22 of them are still being treated at a local hospital, it said.

Earlier reports put the total number of the injured at around 40.

The 137 protesters who were detained for questioning following the clashes have been released without being charged, the Bangkok Post reported, citing a lawyer for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a group allied with the Democrat Party and royalist yellow-shirts.

As another sign of ease of political tension, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Sunday morning that the government was ready to lift the Internal Security Act (ISA) once security agencies ensured that the situation has completely returned to normal.

She said security agencies would hold a meeting later the day to assess the situation for reporting to the cabinet. If they ensured the situation had returned to normal, the government would then lift the ISA, she added.

The ISA was imposed by the government for Nov. 22-30 in three inner Bangkok districts, namely Dusit, Promprap and Phra Nakhon, to cope with the rally by the Pitak Siam. It gives the government greater powers to detain protesters, block routes, impose curfews, ban public gatherings and carry out searches of buildings.

National Security Council (NSC) chief Paradorn Pattanthabutr said the ISA might be lifted by the government on either Nov. 26 or Nov. 27.

Boonlert Kaewprasit, leader of the Pitak Siam, which literally means “Protect Thailand”, and a retired military general, has decided to quit his position and not to take part in any further political gatherings.

He called off the rally ahead of its two-day schedule Saturday evening, saying he didn’t want to see further bloodshed.

Boonlert Kaewprasit denied an allegation yesterday he was paid by ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to call off his rally

It was the biggest street protest against the Yingluck administration since the female prime minister took office last August.

The group earlier estimated that at least 50,000 people would join the rally against the government, which it accuses of corruption and being a puppet for ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in the 2006 military coup but remains a divisive figure in the country’s simmering political tension.

The retired general even claimed that as many as “1 million people” would come from all parts of the country to join his anti- government protest.

Due to strict security checking process under the ISA, only some 12,000 protesters made their way to the Royal Plaza while about 5,000 more were involved in confrontations with riot police at barriers surrounding the plaza, the rally’s main site, according to police.

The rally turnover was outnumbers by 20,000 police and soldiers deployed across the capital.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, a political science lecturer with Sripatum University, told the Bangkok Post that calling off the rally was the best decision under the circumstances, but it might disappoint some protesters, which will make future gatherings more difficult.

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