July 3, 2008

A Night with the People's Alliance for Democracy

A brief note on a visit to PAD Rally 2nd July 2008

During late 2005 I visited the Sonthi rallies in Lumpini Park and then at Royal Plaza as they transformed into PAD. It has been over two years since I observed a PAD rally. Last night I headed to the rally near Government House and Kromluang Chumphon. It was day 39 of PAD’s newest incarnation. Calls for “new politics” were aired frequently.

Chamlong occasionally came on the stage to introduce artists/musicians supporting PAD. He also handed a 100,000 baht donation someone had given him to Suriyasai in a formal presentation.

Former Industry Minister and until recently member of the Democrat Party Chaiwat Sinsuwong gave a spirited speech, some of which I couldn’t catch. Chaiwat was the chap who filed a suit against the People’s Power Party for being a proxy of Thaksin, which was rejected by the Supreme Court. Pressure from the Democrats to withdraw the suit led to his resignation from the party. On stage, he announced that there would be demonstrations across the country on the 4th of July. This is the day that Sonthi Limthongkul has set for announcing the details of PAD’s “Revolution”. Chaiwat, as did others, referred to nation, king and religion constantly and also praised the navy for being (apart from a top navy general) on the right side, of the sacred triad. Chaiwat called on civil servants to join the struggle, asking if they belonged to the government or the king. After Chaiwat’s speech a navy song was played at the rally, military pomp and all that.

Praphan Kunmee, former member of the National Assembly appointed after the coup in September 2006, spoke about the long struggle ahead and invoked the patience of Mao, Mandela, Gandhi and Ho Chi Min. The struggle for new politics Praphan announced was no longer a struggle of the rural areas surrounding the cities, but both working together. Praphan was one of those thousands of people who fled to the jungle and sought refuge with the Communist Party of Thailand after the massacre at Thammasat University in October 1976. Subsequently, Praphan is reported to have worked with Chavalit’s New Aspiration Party and is said to be close to Prasong – the anti –Thaksin former intelligence chief and President of the Council that drafted Thailand’s current constitution. Praphan noted that in the short struggle so far two corpses had been claimed: Yongyuth (former speaker of the house) and Jakraphop (former minister). He also claimed that former PM Thaksin had dispensed with the telecommunications business in 2006 in order to use his special knowledge to invest in energy.

A singer, Rang, belted out songs about the king. He said no one wanted a coup because it would mean the end to the constitution that needed to be protected. During his time on stage he called on the (วิญญาณ) spirit of Sarit Thanarat (สฤษดิ์ ธนะรัชต์) to return and eliminate corruption. Sarit who died in 1963, was notoriously corrupt. The crowd, of around 4000-5000, applauded. The singer seems to have been travelling the country collecting money for PAD. On stage he presented 27000 baht to organisers from Chumphon.

There was lots of clapping, some of it by springed plastic hands waved by people. Plastic clapping hands and the spirit of dictator Sarit being summoned to eliminate corruption - a kind of surreal but appropriate montage for Thailand's "carnival of reaction" as Ji Ungphakorn has dubbed current trends in Thai politics.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your insightful eyewitness reports, and the critique of the PAD's New Politics in the Bangkok Post. I will look for your book.