by Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, April 11 (Xinhua) -- A fresh round of massive street protests by pro and anti-government supporters is feared to resume after the Songkran Festival and the issuance of a verdict by the Constitutional Court on an administrative case filed against besieged acting Premier Yingluck Shinawatra which is expected later this month.
At present, the street unrest has a bit dissipated as Thais from all walks of life are preparing to join the world-renowned Songkran festival which is celebrated throughout the country. The festival, which features water-splashing, will end late next week.
Both sides of the conflict have told their followers to resume public gatherings to show "the people's power" either in protest or support of the Yingluck government as the Constitutional Court is expected to judge whether or not she will be guilty of having abused her powers in the transfer of a senior government official a few years ago. If found guilty, Yingluck will lose her status as acting head of the caretaker government.
The controversial transfer of Thawil Pliensri from the post of secretary general of the National Security Council to an inactive post of adviser to the prime minister, which had already been ruled as "illegitimate" by the Administrative Court, is yet to be judged with finality by the Constitutional Court.
Thai authorities are concerned that street unrest and untoward incidents could be repeated in the coming days.
Even if protesters from both sides are unarmed, an unknown " third force" could foment violence that could cause casualties like in previous demonstrations, said NSC chief Paradorn Pattanathabut.
More than 3,000 policemen and soldiers were deployed to maintain peace and order during separate gatherings of anti- government protesters and pro-government demonstrators earlier this month.
The resumption of massive gatherings of both sides would call for the deployment of an increased number of police and army personnel to provide security at the demonstration sites, according to the outgoing NSC chief.
Explosives and gunfire reportedly killed dozens of protesters, policemen and passers-by and injured many others during street protests in the last few months.
Army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has reassured the public that the military will continue to help the police maintain peace and order in the event of another round of mass protests.
Anti-government protest leader and former Deputy Premier Suthep Thaugsuban recently told his followers, including those who had earlier disrupted the Feb. 2 election, to come back from Songkran festival and resume their street protests by next Wednesday.
He said he strongly believed that Yingluck will be found guilty of abuse of power and would eventually be removed as acting premier.
"The final judgment day is approaching for the premier to get out of power. Of course, she must be sent packing alongside all members of the caretaker cabinet," Suthep told anti-government protesters.
Suthep, who earlier unsuccessfully called on Gen. Prayuth to oust the elected Yingluck through a coup has lately vowed to set up a self-proclaimed "sovereign" body which he will head and would consist of members of the so-called "people's council." Its main goal, he said, is to name a non-elected premier and members of cabinet to replace Yingluck and her lameduck government.
But acting Deputy Commerce Minister Nattavut Saikua said that pro-government Red Shirt members will gather en masse again to demonstrate their unfaltering support for the besieged Yingluck and opposed the "undemocratic moves" by the political opposition.
"A record number of Red Shirt members will definitely demonstrate in protest of a possible adverse ruling of the Constitutional Court on the Thawil case," Nattavut said.
Such possible scenarios of violence were not only feared by the Thai authorities but also by the U.S. government.
Visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel quietly met with Yingluck where he reportedly told her of Washington's concerns over the unresolved political conflict which could possibly result in another coup such as the one in 2006 which ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's brother.
But acting Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said that the U.S. government has shown solid support for democratic rule in Thailand and has rejected any undemocratic rule or coup in this country.
Meanwhile, Red Shirt leader Chatuporn Prompand dared Suthep to bring up as many of his anti-government protesters as possible later this month to see if they could outnumber the pro-government Red Shirt demonstrators.
"Let's make a deal that the one side which will have more people behind will be the winner. And the losers will give up and go home for good," said Chatuporn, leader of the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship, the official name of the Red Shirt movement.
Suthep, former secretary general of the opposition Democrat Party, immediately agreed to the challenge.
But Chatuporn also said that any unfavorable ruling of the Constitutional Court on Yingluck's interim premiership will not be accepted by Red Shirt activists and other justice-loving people while Nattavut vowed to raise a record number of his followers to gather to protest the ruling.