Another step towards the judicial coup

3 04 2014

The “creeping coup” as we dubbed it many months ago, is continuing. The Bangkok Post reports the latest move, which sees the royalist Constitutional Court accepting a case against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that will have it ruling within about two weeks.

The case accepted by the kangaroo court involves the transfer of then National Security Council head Thawil Pliensri in 2011 and his reinstatement by the Supreme Administrative Court a couple of weeks ago. The court has “affirmed its authority to consider the Thawil case that was submitted by a group of senators led by Paiboon Nititawan.” This unelected senator is a regular petitioner to the Constitutional Court and a member of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra group of appointed senators with royalist and military ties.

Based on the Supreme Administrative Court’s decision, the petition claims Yingluck “violated Section 266 (2) and (3) and Section 286 when she signed the order transferring Mr Thawil to be prime ministerial adviser in 2011. It asks the court to rule if she must leave her post as stated in Section 182.” The relevant sections are listed below:

Section 266. A member of the House of Representatives and a senator shall not, through the status or position of member of the House of Representatives or senator, interfere or intervene the following matters, directly or indirectly, for the benefit of his own or other persons or of political party:

… (2) the recruitment, appointment, reshuffle, transfer, promotion and elevation of the salary scale of a government official holding a permanent position or receiving salary and not being a political official, an official or employee of a government agency, State agency, State enterprise or local government organisation;

(3) the removal from office of a government official holding a permanent position or receiving salary and not being a political official, an official or employee of a government agency, State agency, State enterprise or local government organisation….

Section 268. The Prime Minister and a Minister shall not perform any act in violation of the provisions of section 266, except the performance of powers and duties for the administration of State affairs as stated to the National Assembly or as provided by law….

Section 182. The ministership of an individual Minister terminates upon:…

(7) having done an act prohibited by section 267, section 268 or section 269;

The Post states that Paiboon’s petition claims “the transfer was not in the public’s best interests, but is an attempt to find a position for ex-national police chief Wichean Potephosree so the government could appoint its own man to the police chief’s job.”

In fact the whole situation over the police chief’s position goes back a considerable way and involves military, police and palace meddling during the period of the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. Abhisit was dead keen to have his man as police chief, and Wichien was selected for his political credentials and to prevent the rise of  Pol Gen Priewphan Damapong, “the elder brother of Khunying Potjaman na Pombejra, Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife.”

In other words, the political decisions by the Abhisit regime, which were never really challenged or taken up by the biased judiciary and “independent” agencies or royalist-military senators, and which were overturned by the incoming and elected government, are now challenged.

The Supreme Administrative Court “said the prime minister’s judgement [PPT guesses the signing of the transfer] was unlawful and ordered Mr Thawil reinstated. The transfer orders were not in line with government policies announced in parliament.”

Yingluck “will have 15 days to lodge her defence after getting a copy of the petition.”

The Constitutional Court route to bringing down the government is considered by royalists as the best route. It is certainly faster than the National Anti-Corruption Commission rice-pledging scheme kangaroo court and is more likely than an impeachment in the Senate that requires a two-thirds majority.

Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng noted that this route was the one the royalist preferred, observing that “the Constitutional Court has so far ruled as it pleases, rather than going by the charter.” He’s right on that. And, he sees a ruling likely this month.

Royalist Senator Paiboon claimed that he “expects the court to make a decision in two weeks because the case is not complicated and there is no need to hold further hearings.” Another case in the developing tradition of royalist court decisions where evidence and witnesses count for nothing.





Royalist adviser declares there is an anti-monarchy plot

19 01 2012

Thawil (a Bangkok Post photo)

In a recent post, PPT mentioned Thawil Pliensri, the former secretary-general of the National Security Council who is now an adviser to the prime minister. There we noted his opposition to proposed amendments to the lese majeste law.

Remarkably, the Bangkok Post now writes that Thawil is one of those who believes there is an “organised movement in the country is trying to overthrow the monarchy…”. This is from a person who is “advising” Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. It should be recalled that the very center of the “map” of the imagined plot is Thaksin Shinawatra (see below).

The anti-monarchy plot diagram

Thawil apparently made the claim “during three hours of testimony to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) about a chart…, drawn up by state agencies, which purportedly shows how the movement works.” DSI is said to want to “know who exactly was responsible for the chart naming people said to be involved in the anti-monarchy movement.”

The chart was presented to the public as part of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation’s claims that the red shirt protests in 2010 were part of a republican plot.

Thawil, who should know, “told them many state agencies had helped create the chart and there was evidence and witnesses to prove some of those mentioned had broken the law and offended the monarchy.” He added that some of these alleged plotters “have been prosecuted and some have escaped…”. He did admit that “some people included in the chart were not proven to be wrongdoers.”

Thawil deduced that the alleged

offences against the royal institution were numerous and conducted through many channels in such a way that it could be assumed there was an organised anti-monarchy movement.

None of this sounds any different from the claims at the time by the Abhisit regime. Indeed, the DSI say that “Thawil’s testimony was similar to that of CRES spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd.”

In this context, what are we to make of the fact that Thawil is an adviser to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra? In fact, not too much. Readers might recall that Thawil was part of the government’s shuffle of police to allow Police General Priewphan Damapong to become police chief. This required the transfer of Abhisit favorite Wichien Potposri from police chief to head of the National Security Council. That saw a very unhappy Thawil shifted to the “adviser” position. At the time the very bitter Thawil said:

“I am sorry the position of NSC secretary-general, which is highly prestigious, has been used only to serve the purpose of the political sector. From the very beginning of this move, a political postition holder full of prejudice and abuse of power has spoken about me in a sarcastic   and scornful manner.

“But the prime minister, who is my direct supervisor, has not come out to protect me, her direct subordinate,” Mr Thawil said.

Hence, his current statements confirm that he probably has a “difficult” relationship with the current government and that his views when NSC boss, fighting the “disloyal” Thaksin, Puea Thai and red shirts, are essentially unchanged. They are a statement of a disgruntled royalist official.

Of course, he should be sacked. That may be more easily said than done, but anything less would indicate an even more remarkable political shift by the Yingluck government than anyone has seen to date. Doing nothing and implicitly accepting Thawil’s royalist nonsense would seriously challenge the increasingly shaky link between the government and its supporters.





Prem and royalist reaction

5 09 2011

PPT always reads Bangkok Pundit and like many others, find the blog insightful and thought-provoking.Hence we were struck by the rapid consignment to the political grave given to Privy Councilor General Prem Tinsulanonda following the dumping of Wichien Potposri just hours after the police chief had seemingly tried to protect himself by running off to get Prem’s support:

To put this delicately, Prem’s influence has waned so much that people don’t really even gossip and criticize him anymore. Such criticism is now directed at others. There are others who have a direct connection to senior people in the military and hence there is not the need to go through Prem like what was done pre-2006. Prem has been by-passed…. Once Prem was powerful and mighty and to visit him and to get Prem’s blessing – as Wichien had done – would be a sign of your connections and that you were not to be touched, but now, and particularly under a Puea Thai-led government, it is not something that will help you and may even hurt you.

In other words, Prem’s reported support made no difference to the outcome, ipso facto, Prem’s power is waning.

As BP points out, Prem’s political decline has been predicted since at least the mid-1990s, incorrectly as it has turned out. PPT acknowledges that Prem is 91 and unlikely to be as sharp and scheming as he once was. But is he dead as the political leader of the royalist faction? And, even if he is, does it matter?

PPT has to think that Prem is not finished and that a relatively small victory on the police chief may not be the battle that Prem and royalists are going to focus on. The problem for the royalists following the election is that they must rebuild their political base in order to oppose enemy no. 1, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Part of this process involves the re-branding of the royalist feet on the ground, the yellow shirt movement. Another part will inevitably involve the reconstruction of the failed Democrat Party, still saddled with a myopic and disgraced leadership. The royalist leadership of the military is not in question, although the current leadership will need convincing that its loss of face during the election can have it immediately back in the political saddle. Prem will play a role in this. However, there are plenty of other royalists who can direct this, including Prem’s logical successor Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont.

Because of the need to rebuild, PPT thinks the royalist battle lines will be drawn to issues that relate directly to Thaksin. Election victories by pro-Thaksin parties and Thaksin’s clear and widespread support don’t count for the royalists. Their hatred of Thaksin runs deep and they are unlikely to ever forget or forgive what they see as his assault on their system of control and wealth.

The petition delivered in 2009 (Bangkok Post photo)

Hence, the royalists are going to push and attack around issues of loyalty to the monarchy. The headline event at present is the resurrection of the Thaksin royal pardon issue. The Abhisit Vejjajiva government buried this petition and it was never likely to see the light of day while they were in power. For royalist opposition to the petition back in mid-2009, see here (in fact, a search for “petition” produces a bunch of posts).

It is thus no surprise to see The Nation with a major story on the resurrection of the royal pardon petition, emphasizing that the issue is a test of Yingluck Shinawatra’s loyalty to the monarchy. The Nation makes the conflict clear:

With the government reviewing a petition spearheaded by the red shirts in 2009 to seek a royal pardon for her brother Thaksin, new PM Yingluck is obliged to make a tough decision which will show the true colour of her leadership.

Will she uphold the monarchy by keeping the King out of politics? Or will she bend the rules in order to rescue Thaksin despite adverse implications that may undermine the monarchy?

Leaving aside the fact that The Nation seems to have missed all of the previous government’s politicization of the monarchy and the palace’s own work on that score, the stand-off and likely repercussions are clear: allow the petition to go forward and Yingluck is a hated red shirt who only works for her hated brother.





Abhisit’s blast from the past

3 09 2011

Abhisit from the Bangkok Post

Abhisit Vejjajiva has been seen by supporters as a well-educated due to his time at Eton and Oxford. The problem with this perspective is that, in politics, he seems unable to learn.

After leading the Democrat Party to three election losses it might be thought that Abhisit, recently re-elected to lead the party in opposition, had learned by his failures. It seems not.

The Bangkok Post reports that Abhisit’s post-election rhetoric  hasn’t changed, In fact, his rhetoric seems stuck somewhere in 2008, hammering away at Thaksin Shinawatra and red shirts; no electoral success came from this strategy.

Abhisit opposes constitutional amendment, opposes amnesty for politicians in the government camp and opposes Thaksin’s return. He views red shirts as a threat to the system. He sees any attempt to amend the military junta’s 2007 constitution as “an attempt to undermine key institutions in the country.”

Another report at the Bangkok Post has Abhisit complaining that his political appointee as police chief is being ousted by a Puea Thai political process, reinforcing his attachment to double standards.

The politician who made Wichien Potposri top cop complains that he is being removed and that one of his allies at the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations, secretary-general of the National Security Council Thawil Pliensri, is off to an inactive post.

Abhisit claimed that all such actions were “to promote one single individual.” He means Thaksin. He babbled on about justice and merit while forgetting his own purge of the bureaucracy.

ReinforcingAbhisit’s blast from the past approach, Yellow shirt co-ordinator Network of Citizen Volunteers to Protect the Land coordinator Tul Sitthisomwong rallied to support statement expressing opposition to the Wichien’s removal.

In The Nation Abhisit calls on these senior bureaucrats to fight their transfer. Funny, we don’t recall him urging all the people he transferred to complain and fight.

All of the criticism of his administrations is apparently emblematic of Abhisit’s style. He’s unlikely to appeal to anyone much beyond the royalist elite and Tul’s lot. Abhisit’s political campaigning seems to revolve around getting a powerful patron to hoist is party to power (again).





Further updated: Wichien runs to Prem

30 08 2011

The Bangkok Post has an interesting account of the troubles facing national police chief Police General Wichien Potposri. According to the Post, Wichien was appointed less than a year ago. That’s a little misleading, for then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva first appointed Wichien as acting police chief in August 2009, for a short time, but he remained the most powerful cop as the incumbent just served out his time for a further year.

Wichien’s appointment by Abhisit was full of controversy. PPT’s first post was here, and there were others. A useful summary is provided at Bangkok Pundit where the Class 12 links between Wichien and now Army boss Prayuth Chan-ocha are noted.

As Bangkok Pundit notes, Wichien was previously head of the Office of the Royal Court Security Police. Also, under the junta-backed government of privy councilor-cum-prime minister Surayud Chulanond, Wichien was responsible for security and in particular for working with provincial governors to “curb possible violence throughout Thailand.” In other words, he worked with the junta – the Council for National Security – to crack down on potential demonstrations opposing the military-backed government, including limiting the freedom of movement of rural people. During the 2007 general election, he was “in charge of advance balloting.” Under Abhisit he was given responsibility for security and “special operations.”

Back then, Wichien made clear he was a royalist. As reported in The Nation, he said “his top priorities included safeguarding the monarchy, ensuring the job performance of the police service, and developing the police forces to become worthy of the public trust.”

With a new government in place and, as the Post has it (who didn’t know?), “Chuvit Kamolvisit’s exposure of illegal casinos in Bangkok and other complaints that the police have been unable to contain rampant drug abuse and gambling in the city,” he’s in trouble. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung has called for a reshuffle of the police.

Wichien’s first public move to protect himself is to run to see chief of the royalist faction, Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda. Wichien claimed that Prem “offered him moral support during the meeting.” He added:

“[Gen Prem] said he is glad I’m the police chief and he acknowledged that I have tried my best and have sacrificed a lot, and he asked me to continue to do good…”.

Adding to the impression that Wichien’s replacement is going to stir up a royalist hornet’s nest, former Democrat Party Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he “opposed any replacement of Pol Gen Wichean. He said Pol Gen Wichean was capable and good, and illegal casinos and drug abuse alone were not enough to justify his replacement.” Interestingly, Suthep made the good point that if drugs and gambling were reasons for removal, “no successor could stay in office either.” He’s right. Thailand’s police are hopelessly corrupt to the top. However, the battle over Wichien is really about loyalty to the elected government. It is absolutely clear that the royalist Wichien owes his position to Abhisit.

Going to visit Prem is unlikely to have been without Prem’s instigation. This marks a significant point in the relationship between Yingluck Shinawatra’s government and the anti-Thaksin palace.

In an interview conducted after he met Prem and carried in the Bangkok Post, Wichien stakes out his royalist political ground:

I have said it before: I have never considered resigning from the position….

As the national police chief, when I make decisions I think about the country, the people and especially the institution of the monarchy….

He [Prem] gave me blessings. It is a delight to receive blessings from a respected person. Gen Prem reiterated the importance of loyalty and how the police are obligated to provide protection to Their Majesties. He has also talked about the police’s duty to safeguard the general public….

… He talked about His Majesty’s concern for the people. It is the police’s job to protect the people and look after them. It is the service we are obliged to perform for His Majesty.

He told me it is good to have me as chief of police. He told me he has heard a lot of good things about me. He encouraged me to keep up the good work and be a role model for the police. He told me that I should be proud of myself and happy that I have devoted myself to the job and sacrificed myself for others.

Asked if Prem wants him to stay as police chief, Wichien was clear: “Yes.”

Prem is a master of the political game and his meeting with Wichien makes it clear the palace is heavily involved in politicking on this case. It would also seem that the palace has a lot to protect. The Abhisit government placed plenty of loyal royalists in senior positions. The new government knows that the loyalty of these people is always going to be to their real political masters and not the elected government. Moving them is going to pose real challenges and will be a point of conflict between the government and palace.

Update 1: Pressure on Wichien to leave has increased and The Nation reports that he seems to have decided to go. So does the Bangkok Post, noting that he has agreed to leave “under pressure.” Yellow-shirted media are unhappy.

Update 2: It seems the yellow multi-colors shirts led by Tul Sitthisomwong are unhappy about Wichien’s ouster. They are to rally at police headquarters. Tul states: “The rally is not meant for protect Wichean Potephosee but to safeguard the police service from the political meddling…”. That’s odd, PPT doesn’t recall them rallying when Abhisit was trying to hoist his preferred candidate for police chief into place in a vociferously political manner…. While political meddling in the police is to be frowned upon, the control the Democrat Party sought is now to be rolled back. What the police really need is a complete clean-up. It is a hopelessly corrupt agency. It seems unlikely that such a needed process can take place in a highly politicized environment. The promotion of Priewphan Damapong to the chief’s job will see continued political action around the police (readers might like to search our blog for Priewphan to see his links to Thaksin Shinawatra.





Sympathy for the royalists

27 07 2011

In one of those generally useless throwaway inserts that the Bangkok Post seems to have plenty of, there is one item of royal interest that caught the eye.

In Sunday 24 July’s Brunch “magazine,” which is apparently aimed at the elite, the last page is “In the Limelight.” This page is full of photos regarding an event at the “Thailand Cultural Centre [which] saw a full house in attendance last week when Her Majesty the Queen, accompanied by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, graced the premiere of the khon masked dance performance, Episode of Suek Maiyarap.” It can be found electronically here.

What struck PPT about the event is that, going by the photos, it was a kind of show of support for the good lads of the outgoing Abhisit Vejjajiva government. Maybe it was an event where royals and royalists were able to share thoughts and commiserations regarding their thumping defeat at the hands of the Puea Thai Party (or as the elite prefers, the red buffalos).

The story tells us that “The event was organised by the Support Foundation to celebrate HM the King’s 84th birthday anniversary in December this year.” There are a million of these events, but this one was obviously special. Do go and look at the photos.

The alleged “high profile personalities” who showed up to support royals and royalists were “Thanpuying Charungjit Teekara, ML Piyapas and Jutinan Bhirombhakdi, Thanpuying Supornpen Luangthepnimit, Prince Chatri Chalerm and Mom Kamala Yukol, MR Chatumongol and Khunying Boonvipa Sonakul, Prime Minister Abhisit and Dr Pimpen Vejjajiva, Dr Panitan Wattanayagorn, Vinai and Gunnigar Virojanavat, Pol Lt Gen Prakard and Khunying Pa-obthip Satamarn, Vapee and Thanpuying Muanchit Bhirombhakdi.”

For some reason, the southern godfather Suthep Thaugsuban isn’t mentioned. He was there, but doesn’t really fit the model of Bangkok-based, Sino-Thai royalists in this black-tie and diamonds affair. Also there were 2006 coup co-conspirator General Anupong Paojinda, responsible for the bloody crackdowns on red shirts in 2009 and 2010 and Abhisit’s chief of the corrupt police force, Wichien Potposri, and Crown Property Bureau boss Chirayu Isarangkun.

If readers are wondering why academic-for-sale Panitan gets a mention – he’s from the south too – it is probably his Privy Council connection.

We wonder if the queen was rallying this lot for the fight ahead?





Updated: Topless teenagers leave elite outraged, while killing red shirts is ignored

17 04 2011

If the endless reports and blogs are to be believed, a couple of teenagers getting their tops off during Songkhran revelries is an outrage. The Nation is just one of the outlets reporting the shock and horror experienced by the self-appointed guardians of what is proper and what is to be condemned.

The Nation reports that “Bangrak District Office director Surakiat Limcharern yesterday lodged a complaint with police over topless female Songkran revellers whose sexy dancing near Silom Road was recorded and posted on the Internet.” He opined that such displays hurt “the image of Thailand…”. Surakiat also “urged police to track down the teenagers who have carried out obscene acts in public places.”

He was joined in this outrage by National Police Commissioner General Wichien Potposri, who “vowed action against both the topless revellers and their cheering crowds.” (Oops, there’s that telltale cheering again.) And the Minister for Culture Nipit Intarasombat demanded “action taken against those lending loudspeakers and stereo systems for the topless dancing.” He threatened the girls with fines and required “cultural work.” Culture Watch Centre (yes, that’s the name) director “Ladda Tangsupachai yesterday disclosed that Nipit also instructed her to officially ask the National Police Office and the ICT Ministry to ban the video clips on the Internet.”

PPT expects this moral panic to continue for a while yet. Politicians must certainly chime in.

But a moment’s thought will confirm how horrid this reaction is. A few young women getting their tops off gets the elite upset. Killing red shirts around Songkhran (in 2009 and 2010) seems to bring cheers and joy for the elite. Where was the outrage from the elite when the army killed protesters? Perhaps this event will serve as a reminder of the lack of morality amongst the royalist elite….

Update: One of the interesting responses on the 5 minutes of topless dancing that we found interesting, pointed out by a regular reader, is this from the Public Relations Department:

The Ministry of Culture is preparing to issue handbooks campaigning for greater awareness of youngsters on the genuine value of Songkran Festival after inappropriate behaviors were spotted during the Thai New Year celebration.

This refers to the exposed breasts while dancing and a “similar incident” in Pichit province, where the topless dancers were transvestites.

The minister said … [it] is necessary to instil awareness of Thai culture among children and youths, he said. The ministry will soon issue handbooks to be distributed for that purpose.

Protecting public morals is a task that the conservative elite takes on when “protecting” the “institutions” of the old society, most notably the monarchy. The need for protection usually signals a demise.





Prem again mounts the political stage

12 04 2011

The Bangkok Post lets us know that the 91-year old Privy Council President, General Prem Tinsulanonda, is back on the public political stage, seeking to influence the course of events in Thailand. Prem represents the monarchy. Of course, this is not new politics. It is simply that Prem is being public about his political preferences.

Bangkok Post photo

The report tells us that the chief of the royalist wing “has boosted the morale of military and police officers working to ease the country’s continuing unrest.” In other words, he supports the military and police in their ongoing repression of the red shirts and other opponents of the royalist elite.

Prem “opened his Si Sao Thewes residence yesterday to accept Songkran wellwishers for the first time in two years.” This makes his message especially significant. He was “attended”, a bit like a minor royal, by the “commanders of all the armed forces – army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, navy commander Kamthorn Phumhiran, and air force chief Itthaporn Subhawong – extended their wishes.”National police chief Wichien Potposri was also there to see the aging boss.

Prem cheered them: “I have been observing the armed forces’ performance and I’m aware that in all these years they have exerted dedication and effort to serve the nation and monarchy well…”. He exhorted: “I wish all of your good deeds and sacrifices for the country and fellow citizens be recognised by the Thai people.”

Police General Wichean “admitted that although divisions in Thai society may have affected national security, police officers would protect the monarchy and strive to solve the country’s problems with all their might.” Prem seems impressed that the police leadership is now unequivocally royalist under Wichean.

The monarchy is now the center of political disputation and the royalist push for the Democrat Party to continue in government.





More of those double standards

18 03 2011

PAD guards at the airport seizure

There seems to be a sudden resurgence of news that demonstrates the double standards at work in the judicial system. PPT noted the remarkably blatant efforts by the political police at the Department of Special Investigation in an earlier post today. The Bangkok Post adds to the rottenness of politicized decision-making.

Here’s the main point:

The national police chief has dropped terrorism charges against Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and nine key figures of the People’s Alliance for Democracy in connection with the seizure of the Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports in late 2008.

Yes, these 10 are among 25 suspects charged with terrorism offenses, so 15 still face charges, but these PAD leaders haven’t seen the inside of jails for month on month as red shirt leaders did.

Those let off were: least surprising, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Chaiwat Sinsuwong, Gen PathompongKesornsuk , Praphan Koonmee, Therdpoum Chaidee, Veera Somkwamkid, Anchalee Paireerak, Sarocha Porn-udomsak, Pichit Chaimongkol and Banjong Nasae.

The decision on dropping the terrorism charges came from Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s top cop Wichien Potposri, even though police investigators “earlier recommended indictment of all 25…”. Can anyone be surprised by this decision?





60,000 red shirts march and rally

9 01 2011

A reader points this out from The Nation regarding Sunday’s rallies at Rajaprasong and Ratdamnoen: “Maj General Wichai Sangprapai, commander of Metropolitan Police Division 1, said some 60,000 red shirts showed up at the two rallies at Rajdamnoen and Ratchaprasong.”

As usual, The Thai Report has done a great job of posting about the rallies on Sunday, so we reproduce TTR’s links below (in reverse time order). We’ll add to this list as updates when we have them:

http://www.youtube.com/v/GIbt0aZ2l3o?version=3

http://www.youtube.com/v/NPL-WEkSghw?version=3 

18:00 – Picture: Looking South… 

From Al Jazeera

18:00 – Picture: Looking North…
17:15 – Picture: More stuck in traffic…
17:00 – Picture: Attempt to setup stage…
16:00 – Picture: Police watching over…
16:00 – Picture: Road filled…
15:15 – Picture: Massages…
15:00 – Picture: Ratchaprasong still fairly empty…
U.S. Embassy issues warning over mass rally…

Update: Washington Post carries AP story with pictures, including Jatuporn attending / Al Jazeera and updated here / more photos here / Reuters / AFP at ABC News / Photo on the left is from a reader who says: “it sure doesn’t look like the Red Shirt Movement is over…” / VOA News / Bangkok Post: “Police Major General Piya Utayo of the Metropolitan Police told AFP that 30,000 people had gathered for the rally — a figure also confirmed by a special branch police source.” / The Nation: a senior policeman, Wichai Sangprapai “said he had made clear to the group police would immediately make arrests if any protesters wrote any message offensive to the monarchy (a lese majeste offence). Some officers would video the rally for evidence in case of legal violations.” / Thaksin phone-in at AFP: “I admire you for having strong hearts for democracy. The government’s meaning of reconciliation is to chase up people who they can arrest, so that that the Reds will be no more…”.

Jatuporn

Updated Bangkok Post report: “Tens of thousands of red shirt members converged at the Ratchaprasong intersection…”, “[a]bout half an hour before the rally ended at 8.40pm, Thaksin addressed the red shirt demonstrators at the intersection…”, “Suthep Thaugsuban … said any action which further creates political and social division was not helpful…. Mr Suthep expressed concern that many street rallies have been planned…”, “The Department of Special Investigation was keeping an eye on Jatuporn Prompan, the UDD co-leader and opposition Puea Thai Party MP…. DSI chief Tharit Pengdit said if Mr Jatuporn did anything to defy the court’s order, the department would seek to have his bail revoked…”, “Police chief Wichean Potephosree said police were watching for legal violations during the protest such as the release of lanterns and acts of lese majeste.”

From Bangkok Post

More updates: MCOT News / The Nation on Thaksin and Jatuporn / Thai Free News photos / Matichon photos / Bangkok Pundit assessment / Bangkok Post’s Veera Prateepchaikul reflects apparent surprise at the size of the red shirt rallies and immediately raises the “political tool” slogan but at least seems to understand that they are not paid or misled demonstrators / Jatuporn safe / Thai e-News photos and commentary / CNN on the rallies.

BBC News has the biggest lie of the day: “Acting spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said the government had expected bigger numbers since emergency rule was lifted in December.” PPT thinks they have been taken by surprise; after all, the repression has been extensive, but the red shirts keep rallying!

Further updates: short Foreign Policy note / Epoch Times / The Irish Times / Wall Street Journal