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No Migrants at Redshirt Rally

Thailand's Ministry of Labor warned Thai employers not to bring any migrant workers to join ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra's supporters, who are scheduled to launch a major anti-government protest in Bangkok this weekend.

The warning was made by Phaitoon Kaewthong, Thailand's minister of labor, after reports circulated suggesting that Thaksin supporters known as Redshirts will bring laborers including foreign migrant workers to join the Redshirt protest, according to a statement released by the Ministry of Labor on Monday.


In a written statement sent to The Irrawaddy on Monday, Andy Hall, director of the Bangkok-based Human Rights and Development Foundation's migrant justice program said: “If migrants were to attend this red-shirt rally, it would surely be because they were forced to attend by their employers, as we saw with the previous red and yellow shirt rallies in Thailand.” 

“If it is not enough to exploit migrants economically and physically, now they are being exploited politically by both sides of the political conflict,” said Hall.

Thai and foreign-language media are reporting that Thaksin supporters from different provinces will be arriving in Bangkok in order to join the massive protest in the capital. 

According to a report by the Bangkok Post, leaders of the Redshirt group known as United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship have threatened to arrive at the rally in hundreds of farm and pickup trucks, raising concerns that they may close major public roads in an attempt to put down the current government. 

Intelligence reports are saying some weapons and ammunition from an arms depot in southern Thailand are reportedly on their way to the capital. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the reports have indicated the possibility of sabotage taking place next weekend when the Redshirt rally will hold a large-scale protest against the government.

The government and security authorities are also on full alert to ensure there are no further thefts of arms from military depots such as happened on March 2, when grenades and cartridges were removed from an army base in Phattalung Province in Southern Thailand.

The Premier said the government must apply strict measures in searching for weapons and ensure the gatherings do not affect the daily public traffic flow and everyday activities of people living in Bangkok and nearby.

There were few Redshirt supporters outside Thailand's supreme court in Bangkok when the court announced the verdict against Thaksin on February 26, seizing 46 billion baht in total from Thaksin family's assets of 76 billion baht. 

In the seven-hour verdict on Feb. 26, Thaksin was also found guilty for extending a soft loan to the Burmese government. The supreme court said the ex-premier abused his power by approaching the Export-Import Bank of Thailand (Exim Bank) to provide 4 billion baht to the Burmese regime in 2004.

Ship Corp, a telecommunications company formerly own by Thaksin's family, benefited from the loan as it won exclusive rights to be the only supplier for a satellite system in Burma, according to the judges.

Meanwhile, the Exim Bank will also open discussion with the government on whether its 4 billion baht loan to Burma should be reviewed, Deputy Finance Minister, Pruektichai Damrongrut told the Bangkok Post on Friday.

Exim Bank president Apichai Boontherawara said the Burmese government was a good client which made regular repayments, however. The bank lent 4 billion baht to the Burmese government for 12 years at 3 percent interest, “which is below its operating costs,” he said.