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Democracy Update 24.4.13

UntitledDuring the UDD’s weekly press conference last Wednesday, co-leaders discussed the role of the judiciary in the development of Thailand’s fragile democracy.

The ongoing attempts by the Pheu Thai government to reform the post-coup Constitution, in order to align it with modern democratic practices, have attracted condemnation from pro-coup forces. 

A group of Red Shirts are currently staging a protest outside of the Constitutional Court in response to its decision to consider a petition regarding the constitutionality of the constitutional amendments that have been proposed by the government. The group is arguing that by considering the petition, the Court is impeding the powers of the legislative branch. The UDD has also previously pointed out that the judiciary in Thailand has a biased agenda and hinders the democratic process.

Co-leader Tida said,

If the court ignores the power of the legislative branch, it ignores the power of the people. In a true democracy, all the power should be with the people.

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Democracy Update

During the UDD’s weekly press conference on Wednesday, co-leaders discussed the ongoing push for amnesty, efforts to observe the upcoming gubernatorial elections, and plans to expand political education initiatives across the country.

The UDD continues to push for the Amnesty Decree to be passed by the cabinet as an emergency resolution for political prisoners on both sides of the conflicts. Other groups have proposed alternative pathways for amnesty, such as Nitirat’s plan to add an amnesty chapter to the Constitution. While the UDD welcomes amnesty for political prisoners by any means possible, the co-leaders argue that an Amnesty Decree would offer the quickest solution.

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United for Amnesty

At the press conference on Wednesday, UDD co-leaders discussed the necessity of amnesty for political prisoners in Thailand and the UDD’s short-term plans.

Amnesty for political prisoners of all colours, with the exception of rally leaders, is currently the main priority for the UDD. The organization has submitted a Draft Amnesty Decree proposal to the government which could provide speedy amnesty to those who are suffering in prison due to charges stemming from the current political conflict.

Jatuporn Prompan exclaimed,

Our brothers and sisters have been stuck in Laksi prison for too long. We must not be selfish and prioritise our own success over their release.

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Red Shirts Fight For and Against Political Systems, Not Individuals

On Saturday the UDD held a political school in Korat, the latest in a series of political education initiatives that the UDD has set up in its commitment to promote democratic participation.

Throughout the day, UDD co-leaders engaged with 2,000 local grassroots activists on the core beliefs and principles of the Red Shirt movement. While the day’s most pressing issues of amnesty for political prisoners and amending the constitution were discussed, the school focused on the movement’s long term goal of overcoming the amaat power structure that continues to undermine democracy in Thailand.

The amaat system is based on an old elite network of patronage  that survived the abolition of the absolute monarchy in 1932. It comprises Thailand’s old moneyed elites, military generals, and high-ranking civil servants.

UDD leader Tida Tawornseth explains,

The amaat system depends on military and economic power to protect the interests of the few. The system holds back economic and technological developments, and hinders social mobility. The amaat are stuck in the past.

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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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The Time is Now for a People’s Constitution in Thailand- UDD

A combined total of 10,000 Red Shirts gathered to learn and discuss the movement’s goals and progress during two political schools that were held in the Northeastern region of Isaan on Sunday and Monday. The seminars focused on the approaching opportunity for a people’s constitution which would spell a major victory, not only for the Red Shirt movement, but for the democratic future of Thailand.

UDD chairwoman Tida opened the political school in Ubon Ratchathani on Monday, Thailand’s Constitution Day, by highlighting the need for a constitution that is approved by the people.

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UDD On Guard as Pitak Siam Calls for Military Coup

In Pattaya on Sunday, the UDD leadership urged vigilance and caution as anti-democratic forces gather under the banner of the newly formed Pitak Siam (Protecting Siam). Red Shirt leaders spoke to over 2,000 activists, who gathered for the UDD’s third political school of the year, about the growing threat of yet another military coup in Thailand.

UDD Chairwoman Tida said,

We are witnessing the emergence of Pitak Siam who are calling on the military to stage yet another coup. They are supported by the same elites that supported the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). They have lost their influence and they want it back.

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Patience, Unity and Growth Main Messages at Sunday’s UDD Political School

Over 1,500 community leaders from the greater Bangkok area gathered yesterday at UDD headquarters for the launch of the organisation’s first political school event of the year. The free course, which lasted from 9am till 6pm, gave participants the opportunity to hear from prominent Red Shirt figures as well as exchange ideas and strategies among themselves. The topics covered included: the key principles and duties of the Red Shirt movement; its history and relationship with the Thai establishment; as well as Thailand’s path to truth, justice, and reconciliation.

The core message of the day was best expressed by Secretary General Nattawut Saikua, who said to the gathered participants,

We must be patient. Ours struggle is decades old, and our victory will be felt by the generations to come.

His call for patience echoes similar statements made by UDD leader Tida and others last week after violent provocations by Yellow Shirts outside the Crime Suppression Division (CSD) offices on Tuesday.

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