After an initial delay, Abhisit Vejjajiva's government has started a campaign to counter the red shirts' move to collect 3 million signatures for the petition of a royal pardon for ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The government has instructed state-run media outlets to remind the public about the impropriety of involving the monarchy in politics, PM's Office Minister Satit Wongnongtaey said yesterday.
"The issue of a royal pardon has caused so much confusion, and organisers of the signature campaign have been flouting the law," he said.
Satit added that the red shirts were using their move to seek a royal pardon as a pretext for deepening social and political divisions. He urged the public to be cautious, or else they might play an unwitting hand in miring the monarchy in a political game.
Red-shirt leaders Jatuporn Promphan, Veera Musigapong and Natthawut Saikua have vowed to collect 3 million signatures and present the petition to the Royal Household Bureau or the Office of the Private Secretary to His Majesty the King next Friday. The move is seen as yet another attempt by Thaksin's supporters to weaken the revered monarchy.
Thaksin was found guilty in absentia of corruption over the Ratchadaphisek land scam and sentenced to two years in prison last October. He fled the country last August and has been a fugitive ever since.
Under Thai law, criminals can only petition for royal amnesty after they have served time for a certain period and expressed repentance. Thaksin has not served any time in prison or admitted to any wrongdoing. Instead, all he has done is vow to return and lead the country again.
Remember, this is the same Democrat Party before the 2006 that was calling for the HMTK to dump Thaksin and install a royally appointed prime minister.
Remember, this is the same Democrat Party before the 2006 coup that was on stage with the PAD/Yellow shirts(an act of saying that God is on our side) saying that Thaksin was an enemy of the monarchy.
Remember, this is the same Democrat Party that has closed down 20,000 websites of its political enemies in the name of protecting the monarchy.
Remember, this is the same Democrat Party that uses state money to link itself to the King's philosophies for political purposes.
Remember, this is the same Democrat Party that was championing the Finland Plot Conspiracy theory.
Remember, the Democrat Party was traditionally set up to act as the voice of conservative royalists in Thai politics.
Interestingly, if the petition drive is an affront to the monarchy, charge the leaders of the petition drive with lese majeste and chuck them in jail.
The fact is that there is a long tradition of Thai people petitioning the king. Who are the Democrats to say that a free people can't petition their own king on any matter that they choose?
The king can always say no. He can stay quiet and say or do nothing.