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Democracy Update 17/4/13

IMG_2550At the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, the leadership discussed plans for the Thai new year, as well as the ongoing commemorative events that will be taking place within the next month to mark the third anniversary of the brutal military crackdown on Red Shirt protests that killed over 90 people.

Thailand has started to wake up after the celebrations of Thai New Year, Songkran. In traditional Songkran spirit, the UDD leaders announced 3 “wishes” that they will work towards during the new year: amnesty, constitutional reform, and justice.

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Democracy Update 3/4/13

IMG_2149During Wednesday’s press conference, UDD co-leaders discussed obstacles to the ongoing efforts to amend the post-coup Constitution of 2007 as well as a recent ruling by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) regarding Jatuporn Prompan’s disqualification from parliament in 2011. They also announced a commemorative rally that is being held in Bangkok on April 10th in honor of those who died during the brutal and illegal military crackdown of Red Shirt protests in 2010.

The UDD supports the Pheu Thai government’s efforts to amend the post-coup Constitution, but pro-coup forces have continuously tried, and often succeeded, to thwart the amendment process. In one such recent effort, opposition Senator Somchai Sawaengkarn has petitioned the Constitutional Court to issue an injunction against the parliamentary proceedings and dissolve the Pheu Thai party.

While the Court rejected Senator Somchai’s appeal for an injunction, it has accepted his petition to consider the constitutionality of the proposed constitutional amendments, in particular alterations to Sections 68 and 237. The UDD co-leaders expressed frustration that the amendment process is facing obstacles every step of the way.

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Uncertain Times Ahead- UDD Leaders

At the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, UDD leaders called on Red Shirts to be prepared for a precarious month of April. The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is set to announce its decision on an investigation of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s financial assets which could result in the Pheu Thai leader’s disqualification as a member of parliament.

UDD spokesperson Tanawut Wichaidit said,

The NACC has started to make its move against the government. We need to stay alert because the political situation can change quickly.

UDD co-leader Dr Weng Tojirakarn reiterated that Red Shirts need to be ready to defend a democratically elected government against so-called “independent agencies” that were created by the 2006 coup-makers,

The anti-democratic forces in this country will try to bring down the government in April. We need a strong show of strength so that the amaat knows we are watching them.

Red Shirts will gather in numbers on April 10th for the third anniversary of the start of the brutal military crackdown that shook Bangkok in 2010. While the gathering, set to be held at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, will express solidarity with the Pheu Thai administration, the UDD will also continue to pressure the government to fight on behalf of Thailand’s political prisoners, push forward with constitutional reform, and allow the International Criminal Court to open a preliminary investigation on the events of spring 2010.

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UDD Congratulates Mr Sukhumband on election victory

UDD co-leaders congratulated Mr Sukhumband on a fair and clean victory in Bangkok’s gubernatorial elections on Sunday.

Dr Weng said,

We would like to congratulate Mr Sukhumband and welcome him again as the governor of Bangkok.

The UDD leadership welcomed the election as proof that good democratic practice is getting stronger in Bangkok.

Dr Weng added,

We want to thank Bangkokians for defying the rain and going out to vote. It is crucial for us to express this right because, in so doing, we strengthen democracy in Thailand.

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Red Shirts Pressure Government to Grant Amnesty

An estimated 4,000 Red Shirts marched from the Royal Plaza to the Government House on Tuesday to demand amnesty for Thailand’s political prisoners.

Organized by the Red Shirt group called the Declaration of Street Justice, recently renamed the January 29 For the Release of Political Prisoners group, the protesters called on the government to recognize an amnesty proposal that was drafted by the Nitirat Law group of Thammasat University. The proposal would achieve amnesty through constitutional reform, which in itself continues to be a pressing issue for the government. The protesters demanded a response by 6pm, after which the government replied that it would consider all amnesty proposals carefully.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth expressed her gratitude to Tuesday’s protesters, she said,

We thank everybody who came out yesterday to show the government that Thailand needs amnesty for the people. Regardless of what method is proposed and ultimately implemented, we share the common goal of freeing political prisoners.

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A Call for Amnesty

Below is the English translation of the UDD’s statement that was released together with the draft amnesty decree.

January 15 2013

UDD Statement: A Call for Amnesty

The coup d’état of September 19th 2006 executed by the Council of Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM), later renamed the Council of National Security (CNS), has provoked political turmoil and has caused a great divide in Thailand. This split is manifested most clearly in the form of political movements which disagree on the legitimacy of the actions of the coup-makers.

One faction advocated for the overthrow of a democratically-elected government and continues to defend the military coup. They do so on the grounds that the deposed government was led by “crony capitalists” and won elections by deception, vote-bribery, and the ignorance of the electorate. People adhering to this faction demanded that the military overthrow the government despite the fact that it had been elected by a majority of voters.

Another group has emerged in opposition to the 2006 coup d’état. The group grew into a political movement that defied those who prepared, executed, and supported the coup. The movement identified the coup d’état and the post-coup intrusions on Thailand’s democracy as the acts of an aristocratic network. For more than 5 years it has fought against the repercussions of the coup d’état which included the tearing up of the 1997 Constitution and the appointment of a puppet government. The aristocratic network also formed a committee to write a new constitution in order to control state apparatuses to suit its beliefs and interests.

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UDD Draft Amnesty Decree

The following is the draft of an Amnesty Decree. It was proposed by the UDD to the government, together with this statement.

Draft Amnesty Decree

(English Translation)

Royal Decree on Amnesty of Political Convicts and Political Defendants Stemming from the Political Conflict between 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2012, A.D.

  • Article 1: This Decree shall be cited as “Royal Decree on Amnesty of Political Convicts and Political Defendants Stemming from the Political Conflict between 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2012, A.D.”.
  • Article 2: This Decree shall come into force the day following the date of its publication in the Royal Thai Government Gazette.
  • Article 3: All persons who have been charged of committing any crime stemming from the political conflict between 1 January 2006 to 31 December 2012, be they convicted or awaiting sentencing, shall be declared as innocent, and shall be freed of any responsibility for the charges brought against them.

The provision of the preceding paragraph shall not include the leaders who have authority or are in charge of political movements during that time.

  • Article 4: The Prime Minister shall be in charge of this Decree.

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UDD Outlines Four Tier Strategy for 2013

At a press conference on Friday, the UDD leadership outlined their four tier strategy for 2013. Each tier means to challenge a different consequence of the 2006 coup and its aftermath.

First of all, the UDD will prioritize its ongoing struggle for amnesty for political prisoners. UDD leader Tida Tawornseth called on the government to issue an amnesty decree within the next two months. The death of Red Shirt prisoner Wanchai Raksanguansilp on December 27th, 2012, has fueled the anger and frustration among Red Shirts who expected more action from the Pheu Thai administration.

The second tier is the fight for justice and an end to state violence  in Thailand. The murder charges brought against Abhisit Vejjajiva and Suthep Thaugsuban for their lethal and illegal response to the Red Shirt protests in 2010 are a positive development and the UDD will monitor the process closely. Nevertheless, the UDD believes that granting the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction to open a preliminary investigation would help ensure a fair process for all.

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