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News & Analysis : Reds may stick around beyond March



The red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship's anti-government rally may be extended beyond March, according to an assessment of the coalition parties' "war room".

Deputy Prime Minister and Chart Thai Pattana Party advisory chairman Maj-Gen Sanan Kachornprasart revealed this after the first meeting of the "war room" set up by parties in the coalition.

The war room had the government of possible violence, such as attacks with M79 grenades, he said.

Maj-Gen Sanan said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his deputy Suthep Thaugsuban asked leaders of coalition partners to explain the situation during their visits to voters.

The prime minister did not ask about opposition Puea Thai Party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh's plan to lobby coalition parties to withdraw from the government, he said.

The latest information he received was that Gen Chavalit had contacted Chart Thai Pattana leader Chumpol Silpa-archa for talks.

Maj-Gen Sanan said all parties in the coalition said they would remain with the government.  The next war room meeting would be held at parliament on Thursday.  He had no idea when the cabinet would return to work at Government House because this would depend on the situation.

Charnchai Chairungruang, who represents the Puea Pandin Party in the war room, said Mr Abhisit was concerned about  the lives and property of the people and state officials, and warned all concerned against possible clashes with the protesters.

Sohpon Zarum of the Bhumjaithai Party, the transport minister, said the prime minister wanted all cabinet ministers to concentrate on their work and let those responsible for security handle the protesters.

UDD co-leader Nathawut Saikua said the current situation was like a quiet military coup and Prime Minister Abhisit was merely a puppet.

The anti-government activist said everything was now commanded by the military.

"This is a quiet coup. Mr Abhisit is only a puppet.  Everything is under military command," he said.

"More military personnel are appearing on television making statements than cabinet members talking about their work.

"In a democratic country, soldiers have little chance to appear on TV," he said.

"Since everything is now under the military, it would be better for deputy army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha to clearly announce a state of coup," Mr Nathawut said.

He likened the coalition parties' setting up a "war room" to counter the opposition's political offensive to a gathering of exorcists and gangsters planning to create chaos and using the war room as the front.

He said he had heard the government had a plan to create fake red-shirts, comprising people and police from the south of the Northeast  region, whose actions would then be blamed on the genuine red-shirts.

Mr Natthawut said while the UDD was clear in its demand for a House dissolution, and its chief negotiator could be either himself, Veera Musikhapong, Jatuporn Prompan or Weng Tojirakan, the government was just buying time.

He predicted his group's planned rally Saturday would attract three to five times more people than the motocade rally last Saturday.

Details of the rally would be revealed on Friday, he said.

Mr Nathawut said the UDD was considering inviting a foreign agency, like Guinness World Records, to come and make a record of Mr Abhisit as the prime minister because he was opposed by the highest number of people in the world.

He denied speculation that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had left Dubai, saying his boss was not well and could not appear on a video link to talk to his supporters during the past two days.


Prime Minister Abhisit denied the UDD's allegation that there had been a quiet military coup.

"A quiet coup?  Who took power from who?  Everybody is performing their duty.

"On the contrary, obstructing MPs from getting into parliament to work was undemocratic," the prime minister said.

Opposition MPs on Wednesday morning boycotted the House meeting after they were made to park their vehicles outside the parliament grounds.

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