Home > World News > Abhisit Warns Nationalists as Bangkok Protests Raise Specter of 2009 Clash

Abhisit Warns Nationalists as Bangkok Protests Raise Specter of 2009 Clash

Thai nationalist protesters will rally “indefinitely” starting tomorrow
to pressure the government into taking stronger action in a border
dispute with Cambodia, leader Chamlong Srimuang said. Photographer:
Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva warned nationalists over the planned blocking of a
Bangkok street that raised the specter of protests two years ago
that led to deadly clashes and airport closures.
The People’s Alliance for Democracy, which mobilized tens
of thousands of people when it seized Bangkok’s airports for
eight days in 2008, will gather at 2 p.m. on a bridge less than
a kilometer from Abhisit’s Government House office. The
benchmark SET Index rose 0.2 percent as of 11:34 a.m. local
time, after its biggest drop in 15 months yesterday.
“This event may remind markets of the events in 2008,”
Standard Charted Plc said in a note today. “The return of
political tensions outside parliament would add to PM Abhisit’s
worries and may lead to foreign portfolio outflows.”
The moves by the yellow-shirted protesters who backed
Abhisit’s rise to power in 2008 and now say the government is
ceding territory to Cambodia may undermine his efforts to
prevent street clashes before an election he must call this
year. Rival red-clad supporters of ex-leader Thaksin Shinawatra,
whose occupation of downtown Bangkok last year led to at least
95 deaths, will gather nearby today and have vowed to hold
competing bi-monthly rallies.
The People’s Alliance is demanding that Thailand drop out
of the United NationsWorld Heritage Committee, cancel a 2000
agreement with Cambodia on border negotiations and urge
Cambodians to withdraw from disputed border areas, leader
Chamlong Srimuang said yesterday. He didn’t rule out storming
Government House in the days ahead as the group did in 2008.
‘Work as Normal’
“All parties should cooperate and act in line with the
rules,” Abhisit told reporters in Bangkok yesterday. Protesters
should “make sure they don’t harm the public and allow the
government and Parliament to work as normal.”
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said today the
protesters’ demands are “dangerous” to the country and the
government wouldn’t follow them. The government will set up
checkpoints along the route to the demonstration area to ensure
the protest stays peaceful, he said.
Police arrested five suspects accused of aiming to sabotage
today’s rally with homemade bombs, the Bangkok Post reported,
without citing anyone.
Stocks Drop
Thailand’s SET Index fell 4.3 percent yesterday, its
biggest drop since Oct. 15, 2009. The gauge has lost 8 percent
since reaching a 14-year high on Jan. 6, joining regional
neighbors from China to India in declining from recent peaks
amid concern central banks will take extra steps to prevent
their economies from overheating.
The baht slid 0.3 percent to 31.01 per dollar as of 11:35
a.m. in Bangkok, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The
currency touched 31.02, the weakest level since Sept. 9.
Tourism stocks led declines, with Thai Airways
International Plc poised for its lowest close since Oct. 13 and
Airports of Thailand Pcl, the biggest airport operator, headed
for its lowest close since July 2. Central Pattana Pcl, owner of
a Bangkok shopping mall that was set ablaze during protests last
year, fell 5.3 percent to 27 baht.
Global funds sold 4.05 billion baht ($131 million) more
local shares than they bought yesterday, taking this month’s net
sales to $955 million, according to stock exchange data.
‘Buying Opportunity’
The recent stock declines presented a “buying
opportunity,” Credit Suisse Group AG said today.
“We consider politics a potential positive catalyst,
rather than a reason to sell,” analysts Dan Fineman and
Siriporn Sothikul wrote in a report today. “We still see a good
chance for elections as early as April-May and expect the
government to surprise the market with its margin of victory.”
Thai lawmakers today will debate two minor changes to the
constitution that would alter the composition of Parliament and
make it easier to sign international treaties. Passage of the
amendments would fulfill one of Abhisit’s conditions for calling
an election ahead of a deadline for the end of this year.
Abhisit’s Democrat party received support from coalition
members to increase the number of party-list seats to 125 from
100, and boost the total number of lawmakers to 500 from 480,
Krungthep Turakij reported, without saying where it got the
information. In the last election in 2007, the Democrat party
won the most party-list votes despite finishing with 68 fewer
total seats than the pro-Thaksin party.
The People’s Alliance, led in part by a member of Abhisit’s
party, ended six months of street protests in 2008 against
Thaksin’s allies when a court disbanded the ruling party.
Abhisit took power two weeks later in a parliamentary vote.
Protesters Killed
Soldiers declined to enforce orders from a pro-Thaksin
prime minister in 2008 to disperse the People’s Alliance from
Government House or the airports. The army has twice used force
since then to break up protests from Thaksin’s supporters, most
recently in May when demonstrators turned down Abhisit’s offer
to call an early election.
Street clashes and small bomb attacks during the 2008
protests killed at least five people and injured hundreds of
others.
Relations between Thailand and Cambodia soured in 2008 when
a Thai court ordered a Thaksin-linked government to withdraw
support for Cambodia’s bid to list the disputed Preah Vihear
temple as a World Heritage site. Gun battles in the area since
2008 have killed at least six soldiers.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Daniel Ten Kate in Bangkok at
dtenkate@bloomberg.net
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Peter Hirschberg in Hong Kong at
phirschberg@bloomberg.net
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Categories: World News
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