COUNTRY ON BRINK AGAIN
Thaksin's phone-in "banned," for today
By The Nation

How will Thailand emerge from week of biggest tension? Army chief Anupong will be key

Threats of political violence decreased a little on Sunday with cancellation of an expected phone-in by ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra to his supporters at Suan Kaew Temple and the government mulling postponing tomorrow's parliamentary session to avoid confrontation with the People's Alliance for Democracy.

With Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda appointed to lead a special task force to monitor the PAD's activities, there is also hope there will not be a repeat of the October 7 violence that saw many PAD protesters killed and seriously injured by tear gas explosions.

Anupong came out strongly against the police use of force after the incident, but the government of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat ignored his implicit call for its resignation.

The pro-Thaksin gathering at the Suan Kaew Temple is expected to disperse in the evening, after abbot Phra Payom Kallayano vowed to "cut the power" if the "Truth Today" forum involved a satellite address by the former leader.

The PAD, which aims to create its "final and decisive" rally in the wake of a bomb attack inside Government House last week that killed a protester, remains committed to besieging Parliament tomorrow.

Exactly when the protesters inside Government House, joined by big numbers of their provincial allies today, will march to Parliament is not known, although PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang said the march would take place tomorrow.

If the PAD manages to surround Parliament, the siege may last a few days. How the country can avoid violence, therefore, relies much on Anupong, whose advice on which action the government should take will be crucial.

Speaking from Peru, Prime Minister Somchai said he appointed Army Commander in Chief Gen Anupong to monitor the situation which became tense as anti-government protesters planned to march to the Parliament on Monday.

Somchai was attending a summit meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Lima, Peru.

Somchai said, "Gen Anupong's committee will be in charge of monitoring the situation and give suggestions to authorities concerned on how to deal with the protesters."

The panel was not assigned to crack down on the protesters, Somchai reiterated.

Anupong's panel has duties to monitor the situation involving the protesters who vowed to conduct a mass rally on Sunday and march to block the Parliament on Monday. Since Anupong condemned the use of force on October 7, it's unlikely he would suggest drastic measures to deal with the PAD, observers believe.

The PAD said it wanted to besiege Parliament to block any attempt to amend the Constitution to pave the way for Thaksin and his banned political associates to return to power.

Somchai reiterated that the joint session between MPs and senators on Monday will not discuss the constitution amendment. The sessions will instead discuss laws concerning international trades and Asean which required the Parliament's ratification.

However, calls are growing today for the government to postpone the parliamentary session, or at least change the venue of the meeting. The calls were backed by some government MPs.