Before being dispersed, however, the protesters marched from the Democracy Monument intending toward the Royal Thai Army headquarters. The marchers were dressed in ancient Siam Warrior dress and carrying bows and arrows.
When asked to halt the protesters stopped their march and read a statement, calling for the revocation of martial law for a truly open national referendum currently scheduled for August 19. Then several volleys of arrows were launched in two areas along Rajdamnoen Avenue near Democracy Monument.
As Thailand gets ready to go to the polls, a total of 187,950 police and army personnel are set to man 87,824 polling booths countrywide from Sunday through August 19, referendum day, a senior police officer said Sunday.
One week ago the UDD released the following open letter:
An open letter to International organizations throughout the globe
August 2nd, 2007
As this letter reaches you, the eight principal leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, an umbrella organization striving for the restoration of Democracy in Thailand in its true and full spirit, are sequestered in a high security prison at Bangkok Remand Custody, Ngam Wong Wan Rd, with lesser privileges than common convicts.
The incidents that led to the conviction itself are testimony to the ghastly new chapter that is being written in the history of this nation of peace-loving, affable people-that of violent repression of individual freedom, open practice of deceit by the state and unlawful manipulation of the judiciary and the press, making a mockery of the chance for a life of decency for the common man.
On July 22nd 2007, there was a large gathering of peaceful demonstrators in front of General Prem Tinasulanonda’s residence. Throughout its history of the last several decades, Thai people have always had the right to protest, and gatherings multiples in size of what was present on the evening of July 22nd have been allowed to protest with no violent interventions by the state.
On this particular evening however, the government in an act of brazen ruthlessness, designed to cover its shame, disrupted the peaceful gathering by hitherto unprecedented use of force in the form of tear gas, pepper spray and baton charges, leading to chaos, confusion and tears and often grievous injuries for the protesters. In another sign of the pervasive control of the government on all institutions, the local media’s reporting was biased to a shocking extent, providing no light from reliable quarters on what actually happened at the protest, that evening. We would like to present actual video footage with narrative in English of the incident, which provides reportage free from the attack by the government censor.
The anti-government leaders were arrested on July 28 after scores of people were injured at a rally held earlier that week outside a former prime minister's home.
On September 19 2006, the Royal Thai Army staged a coup against the government of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The coup, which was Thailand's first in fifteen years, followed a year-long political crisis involving Thaksin and political opponents and occurred less than a month before nation-wide House elections were originally scheduled to be held. The military cancelled the upcoming elections, suspended the Constitution, dissolved Parliament, banned protests and all political activities, suppressed and censored the media, declared martial law, and arrested Cabinet members.
Giles Ji Ungpakorn, Peoples Coalition Party, Turn Left newspaper and Workers' Democracy, Thailand immediately after the coup described the whole mishagas like this:
"Last night the military staged a coup against the elected, but controversial, government of Taksin Shinawat. In the tradition of all Thai military coups for the last 60 years, the dictatorship claimed to have staged the coup in order to "reform politics" and "protect democracy". They said they had "no interest in taking personal power" and would be "returning power to the people as soon as possible". And in the tradition of many previous coups they later sought and received support from the monarchy.
The military have taken over all Thai TV channels and have blocked foreign news channels such as CNN and BBC. The TV is showing pictures of the royal family along with various declarations from the so-called "democratic reform committee".
The Thai peoples' movement had good reason to oppose the Taksin government which presided over gross human rights abuses in the south and in the so-called war on drugs and pushed for many neo-liberal policies, such as privatisation and free trade agreements. Yet the Taksin government retained huge popularity among the poor. On 2 April this year 16 million people voted for the government, as opposed to 10 million who voted against.
The reason was simple. The Thai Rak Thai government of Taksin had initiated many pro-poor policies, including a universal health care system and various measures to cut poverty. Yet many of those who joined the anti-government movement earlier this year, dismissed the electorate for being uneducated and ill-informed. Unfortunately many social movement leaders also took this position. Instead of respecting the poor and the electorate, they demanded that the king sack the government. Although the king refused to do this, the position taken by the anti-Taksin movement has helped pave the way for this coup.
It is now up to us in the peoples' movement to once again struggle for democracy in Thailand. This struggle for democracy can be the only road to real and lasting political and social reform which is much needed in order to make Thai society a more just and peaceful society...."
The following is from the Thai News Agency
Police block UDD march
Anti-coup demonstrators marching on the Royal Thai Army headquarters dispersed after being intercepted by police units Thursday afternoon.
Protesters from the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) marched from the Democracy Monument intending to carry out their planned protest at the Royal Thai Army headquarters, but they were blocked by a 450-man formation of police officers.
The protesters stopped their march and announced their statement, calling for the revocation of martial law for the transparency of the national referendum due on August 19.
Some 100 police officers are stationed at the Royal Thai Army headquarters and barriers have been set up at three locations to prevent protesters from entering the headquarters.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing six key leaders of the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) petitioned the Criminal Court arguing against the police request to revoke bail for further detentions of his clients.
The petition clarified that the six UDD leaders joined an anti-government rally at Sanam Luang on Monday shortly after their release from Bangkok Remand Prison on bail, but none of their actions violated the bail orders as claimed by the police. They insisted that they had exercised their rights under the freedom of expression.
The seven released on bail on August 6 after 12 days confinement at Bangkok Remand Prison included former key members of the now-dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party -- Veera Musikapong, Jakraphob Penkair, Aphiwan Wiriyachai, Weng Tojirakarn, Chatuphorn Phrompan, Nattawut Saikua and Wiphuthalaeng Phatthanaphumthai.
The court is scheduled to rule on their petition next Friday.