Red Shirts Still Not Quite Ready To Disperse Yet...

One week after prime minister Abhisit has offered his roadmap to reconciliation and days of back-door discussions, counter-demands and also opposition by the yellow shirts, the red shirt leaders have concluded their discussions amongst themselves and went on stage to say that they accept the November 14 election date, but have set up their own five-point plan, without outlining them all but they have announced a few key points like...

The red-shirts accepted PM Abhisit Vejjajiva's offer of 14 November polls but said they would not go home until the deputy PM surrendered to police. They say Suthep Thaungsuban must answer for the deaths of protesters in a 10 April clash.

Mr Abhisit had given the red-shirts a Monday deadline to respond to his plan. (...)

At a news conference, the red-shirts said they broadly accepted the timeframe laid down in the road-map. But they said that they wanted to ensure there were no double standards in the repercussions before agreeing to close down their protests.

They said many of their members had been accused of terrorism or been subject to arrest warrants, so Mr Abhisit and Mr Suthep should be subject to the same scrutiny. Mr Abhisit has parliamentary immunity but Mr Suthep should surrender to police to face accusations of murder, they said.

Mr Suthep was in charge of security operations on 10 April, when 25 people were killed in a failed attempt to disperse protesters. His role was subsequently given to army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda.

"If Suthep refuses to surrender himself to police, we refuse to end the rally," red-shirt leader Nattawut Saikua told reporters. "If Suthep surrenders to police, then we will go home."

A government spokesman says the deputy prime minister will meet the head of special investigations on Tuesday to hear the accusations levelled against him.

But the BBC's South East Asia correspondent, Rachel Harvey, says it is not clear whether or not this is in response to the protesters' demands or part of a complex deal that has been rumoured to be in the offing for days.

"Thailand red-shirts set out new conditions", BBC News, May 10, 2010

Fact is, Suthep will go and meet the head of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), and probably not 'surrender' himself to them as The Nation calls it. There is doubt if this will be enough for the red shirts to see this condition fulfilled, but later that evening it was clear that it was not.

เมื่อ เวลา 22.00 น. (...) นายจตุพร พรหมพันธุ์ แกนนำ นปช. ปราศรัยว่า กรณีนายสุเทพจะไปพบอธิบดีดีเอสไอวันที่ 11 พฤษภาคม ถือเป็นการหลอกต้มคนเสื้อแดงทั่วประเทศ เนื่องจากคดีสั่งฆ่าประชาชนนั้น ยังไม่มีการรับเป็นคดีพิเศษ การไปของนายสุเทพจึงเป็นการไปนั่งกินกาแฟกับนายธาริตมากกว่า นายสุเทพต้องไปมอบตัวต่อตำรวจกองปราบปรามสถานเดียว

At 10 PM (...) red shirt leader Jatuporn Phromphan said on stage that "[if] Suthep will meet the director of the DSI on May 11th, it will be a lie to all red shirts in the country," since the case of the order to kill citizens [on April 10th] has not been made to a special case yet. "This meeting between Suthep and Tharit will probably be just a coffee party. Suthep has to hand himself to the Police's Crime Suppression Division."

"นปช.ยึกยักเลิกชุมนุม ลั่น"เทพเทือก"ต้องมอบตัวตร.สถานเดียว จวกไปดีเอสไอหลอกลวงแดงทั้งแผ่นดิน", Matichon, May 10, 2010

Just to give some context, the Department of Special Investigation is a branch of the Ministry of Justice, whereas the Crime Suppression Division is a branch of the Crime Investigation Bureau of the Royal Thai Police. Whether the DSI's investigation will lead to anywhere even close to an indictment is to be doubted. The problem is also that the DSI has more or less taken over the case against the PM and Suthep and has additionally accepted a formal complaint from a Puea Thai Party spokesperson, who represents some relatives of the victims killed during the April 10 clashes. Thus, the red shirts leaders are more or less demanding the case against Suthep to be handed back to the police's Crime Suppression Division.

One other central demand of the red leaders is that the government should put their TV channel PTV back on air, after it has been yanked off the air several times.

One of the five points in Abhisit's road map is media reform. The red shirts have agreed to join the scheme but demand the same treatment as rival ASTV, the main mouthpiece for the rival yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). "It's good to have an independent body that takes care of media content, in order to prevent provocations and champion reconciliation," Natthawut said. "PTV is prepared to follow the body's instructions if ASTV does."

"Ball back in reds' court", The Nation, May 11, 2010

Prior to the announcement there were rumors spread by Khattiya Sawasdipol, a pro-red Major General widely known as 'Seh Daeng' (more on him in a future blog post), that the red shirt leaders have been sacked by former prime minister and alleged puppet master of the red shirts Thaksin Shinawatra and replaced by new ones. But this was, of course, denied very quickly.