Campaign on Thaksin pardon
Million-signature campaign to petition Thai King may affect ruling elite’s election prospects
By Nirmal Ghosh, Thailand Correspondent
ST/14 July 2009
Bangkok – A signature campaign seeking royal pardon for former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is threatening to up the stakes significantly in Thailand’s long-running political conflict.The ‘red shirt’ United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), with the help of lawmakers from the opposition Puea Thai party, plans to collect one million signatures to petition King Bhumibol Adulyadej to grant a royal pardon to Thaksin. The former premier is in self-exile to dodge a two-year jail sentence for corruption.
The signature campaign, which has sparked intense debate, comes as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva begins making forays into the north-eastern provinces in a bid to erode Thaksin’s loyalist vote bank.
The Premier began with a trip to Buri Ram last weekend amid heavy security.
There was a significant amount of stage-managing in Buri Ram by supporters of former Thaksin loyalist Newin Chidchob who is now with the Democrat Party-led coalition.
Pro-government ‘blue shirts’, who had played a part in escalating the situation in Pattaya in April which forced the cancellation of the Asean summit, were also deployed to keep a few hundred UDD red shirts from disrupting Mr Abhisit’s visit.
Mr Abhisit is due to follow up with visits to two other north-eastern provinces this month – Ubon Ratchathani and Amnat Charoen.
The Democrat Party desperately needs a slice of the vote from the north and north-east if it is to retain power in the next election, widely believed to be due early next year.
And the petition to the King has emerged as a significant development which could potentially affect the party’s chances at the polls. ï¿½
Some in the UDD claim to have already collected one million signatures, but one source close to the movement’s leadership told The Straits Times the number so far was between 600,000 and 700,000.