Thu, May 24, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Thai police prepare to stop protesters with 99 elephants

DECISION PENDING On Wednesday Thailand's Constitutional Court will deliver a verdict that could mean disbanding two political parties


Authorities are preparing to prevent 99 elephants and thousands of villagers from entering Thailand's capital to protest the possible dissolution of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's political party, the military said yesterday.

"The authorities are trying to convince the elephant owners not to bring their animals to Bangkok. We have to use all means to stop the elephants from joining the political rally," said Lieutenant General Prayuth Chanocha, commander of the 1st Army, which is responsible for peacekeeping in Bangkok.

He said the protesters and pachyderms plan to enter Bangkok on Tuesday, a day before the Constitutional Court is due to deliver a verdict that could lead to the disbanding of both Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party and the opposition Democrat Party for allegedly breaking the law during an election in April last year.

The leaders of both parties have publicly promised to accept the court's ruling, but some senior members of Thai Rak Thai are threatening to stage mass protests if their party is disbanded.

Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup last September after months of street protests and flawed elections. Now living abroad, he and his family are under investigation for alleged corruption and other offenses.

Prayuth cited intelligence sources as saying that thousands of villagers from northern and northeastern Thailand, strongholds of the Thai Rak Thai party, were poised to travel to Bangkok with 99 elephants. Nine is an auspicious number in Thailand.

Thai Rak Thai is accused of financing obscure parties to run against it in the election as a way of getting around rules that require a minimum voter turnout in constituencies where single candidates run unopposed.

The Democrat Party, which boycotted the election, is accused of conniving with the small parties to lure Thai Rak Thai into illegally funding them.

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