Detained "red shirt" to run for parliamentary seat

Korkaew Pikulthong will be standing for the opposition Puea Thai Party.

Bangkok: A Thai "red shirt" detained on terrorism accusations registered his candidacy on Monday for a by-election in Bangkok, aiming to campaign against what the opposition calls political persecution.

Korkaew Pikulthong, one of the leaders of the "red shirt" movement whose two-month anti-government protest was put down by the military last month, will compete on July 25 for a seat left vacant by the death of a pro-government parliamentarian.

Korkaew, who will be standing for the opposition Puea Thai Party close to ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, was temporarily released from detention for the registration. "This is bigger than just one seat. If voters want democracy, pick me. If they want injustice, pick the other guy," he told reporters at the district office, before being taken back to prison.

Hundreds of red-clad supporters outside cheered him on -- the biggest such political gathering in Bangkok since troops forcibly dislodged the mostly rural and urban poor "red shirts" from an affluent shopping district on May 19. In all, 90 people were killed and nearly 2,000 wounded during two months of protests.

The parliamentary seat has traditionally been held by the ruling Democrat party but this poll is likely to be fiercely fought.

"It will be closely watched because it gives the `red shirts` a new, legitimate platform to campaign against the government," said Sukhum Nuansakun, an independent political scientist.

Jatuporn Prompan, another protest leader and parliamentarian who also faces terrorism charges relating to the political violence, said he would campaign for the candidate, who will not be allowed to make audio or visual recordings for his campaign.

Jatuporn is the only leader of the pro-Thaksin "red shirts" to have been released on bail. The others are in detention or in hiding. None has yet been formally charged with any offence.

The Puea Thai Party has called on the government to end a state of emergency imposed since April, which gives the security forces broad powers to deal with unrest and restrict political rights.

However, the government said recently it was likely to extend the decree in some politically charged areas, including Bangkok, citing fears of more violence.

Bureau Report