Thai protests against amnesty bill spread to other countries

Thai expatriates and students protest in front of the Thai Consulate in Chicago on Thursday against the amnesty bill.

Opposition to the controversial amnesty bill has expanded beyond Thailand's borders, with Thai expatriates and students in several countries also staging their own protests.

The sound of whistles seems to be echoing around the world as Thais in a number of countries gather to express their disagreement about the bill.

There have been protests in the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and Australia - and there will likely be a few more to come.

Thais in London are planning to gather in the Old Palace Yard outside the Houses of Parliament today from 9am to 11am. About 500 people have selected "attending" on the event's Facebook page.

They will sign the petition against the amnesty bill, announce their reasons for the protest, sing the Thai national anthem and other uplifting songs and then, to further raise awareness, they will spend two minutes blowing their whistles.

Also tomorrow, at 11am in The Hague, Thais are scheduled to rally at the Thai Embassy against the amnesty bill.

In the Australian city of Melbourne, there will be another protest opposing the bill in front of Federation Square, during which protestors will wear black shirts.

The Thai Student Association of Victoria has played a major role in the propagation of news about this event.

Next Tuesday, there will be a protest in front of the Consulate General of Thailand in New York, starting at 11am. The rally is being organised by Pailin Kumsiri, Arnond Sakvoravit and Risa Atsakul.

Already this week, Thais in Frankfurt gathered on Thursday to protest against the bill, while a costume-maker along with other Thais gathered to show their opposition to the bill in front of the UN Plaza Civic Centre in San Francisco.

On Tuesday in Australia, 500 Thai students and residents in Sydney, New South Wales, and from the nearby states of Queensland and Victoria, organised a protest in front of the Thai Consulate-General, led by Pornpet Songkijanuwat and Surasak Duangrat, managing editor of Thai-OZ, a Thai-language newspaper in Australia.

Along the way, the protestors loudly called for the ousting of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and raised banners opposing the bill.

In the US Thursday at noon, Thais gathered in front of the Thai Consulate in Chicago to protest against the amnesty bill.

Meanwhile, the public outcry at home against the government-backed legislation continued unabated yesterday.

More groups of people and organisations came out publicly to protest against the proposed law that would absolve all those involved in political offences since 2004, including politicians convicted of corruption and those having committed severe crimes. Among the groups protesting against the bill yesterday were more than 1,000 staff members of the national carrier Thai Airways International, 500 officials from the Finance Ministry, and more university students and medical staff in many provinces.

The Federation of Thai Industries yesterday resolved to oppose the amnesty bill in support of the fight against corruption.

FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsutipol said the board had agreed to oppose the bill because it would absolve people convicted of corruption.

He warned, however, that the ongoing protests against the bill could lead to political confusion, and he called on those involved to help restore normalcy as soon as possible.

Payungsak insisted that FTI was an organisation with no political affiliation, and that it was merely concerned with the possible negative impact of the latest political

confrontation on the country's economy.

Meanwhile, red-shirt supporters of the government - numbering a few hundred in total - held separate gatherings in Chiang Mai, Pathum Thani and Rayong yesterday to express their backing for the Pheu Thai-led administration and the amnesty bill.

Amidst the political uncertainty, Thai stocks weakened further yesterday, with the Stock Exchange of Thailand Index closing at 1,405.03 points, a decline of 20.20 points or 1.41 per cent.

Trading volume was brisk at Bt36.8 billion ($1.46 billion).