Thursday, October 29, 2009

Phuket Red-Shirts Plan Island Rally, Thaksin Talk

Red-shirt leaders announce Saturday's fund-raiser at a media conference.
Photo by Sert Tongdee

By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

(Posted by CAAI News Media)

Phuketwan News Update

RED-SHIRTS on Phuket are rallying, with a fund-raising dinner for 1000 people set for Saturday at Rajaphat University, possibly with a phone-in from fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.

A strong protest from yellow-shirts may force a change in venue.

The storm over the event has the potential to thrust Phuket - and its tourism industry - into the centre of Thailand's political uncertainty once again.

The red-shirt diners on Saturday hope to hear speakers dissect Phuket's economy and national politics.

But a Phuket yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy leader, Kit Tepbumrung, has told university officials to think again.

''Phuket is a stronghold for the yellow-shirts, so it is unwise to hold such a gathering at the university,'' he said. ''The Rajapath director, Dr Prapa Gayee, should think again.''

Dr Prapa told Phuketwan today that many people had called to indicate their opposition to the red-shirt gathering.

She said she had already formally notified Provincial Hall by letter that the gathering was scheduled to take place on Saturday.

Another offical letter had gone to local police, asking for adequate protection for diners on Saturday.

''This is a university and because it is a public space, every group is entitlerd to use it,'' she said. ''The PAD has used it in the past and is welcome to use it again.

''But on Saturday, it's the red-shirts' turn.'' However, she is seeking three undertakings from the red-shirt leaders to avoid trouble.

''We don't want HM The King mentioned; we don't want critcism of the present government; we don't want Khun Thaksin phoning in.''

The guest list for Saturday includes the island's most prominent supporters of former PM Thaksin. Having been found guilty of corruption, he remains a fugitive in Thailand, although neighboring Cambodia may soon provide him with a home away from home.

Saturday's events begin at 3pm with guests invited to sign a book of best wishes for HM The King. Eighty tables of invited guests will be asked to donate to the red-shirt cause.

Individuals will be paying 300 baht each for the dinner.

Cambodia and Khun Thaksin are hot issues in Thailand right now, with Cambodian PM Hun Sen appearing at the weekend's Asean summit in Bangkok to offer a home-away-from-home to the fugitive former PM.

Yellow-shirt protesters have also marched on Phuket in the past in condemnation of Cambodia's claim to the controversial Preah Vihear temple, on the border with Thailand.

Phuket is a stronghold for both the yellow-shirt PAD supporters and the ruling Democrat Party.

Until now, red-shirt supporters who are prepared to stand up in support of Khun Thaksin are said to number about 200 at most.

The three-day occupation of Phuket International Airport in August last year by yellow-shirt protesters [roved to be a warm-up for the lweek-long occupation of Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok in November that brought the downfall of Khun Thaksin's political successors.

Those invasions turned tourism on Phuket into a train wreck. Today, 15 months later, occupancy rates remain low and high season prospects are far from bright.

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