The People’s Movement for a Just Society (P-Move) has declared that it will be occupying the street in front of Government House to demand a fairer policy for land rights, community rights, welfare, freedom, and democracy. They have vowed not to leave until the cabinet passes resolutions guaranteeing their demands.
P-Move protesters sitting in front of police blockade at Government House on 3 October after being told to move to another area. (Photo from P-Move)
P-Move, a network of community rights groups from across the country, has been continuously campaigning for policies that will reduce inequality and protect the rights of those affected by government policies, especially policies related to land rights and natural resources.
Their demonstration was announced on Sunday (1 October). Activist Pachara Khamchamnan told Prachatai that the network is demanding fairer policies regarding decentralisation, judicial reform, land rights, natural resource management, community participation in disaster prevention, indigenous rights, protection for undocumented people, and state welfare. They are also calling for a new constitution to be drafted by an entirely elected Constituent Assembly.
Pachara said that P-Move has been campaigning for these policies since the general election in 2019, as the movement believes that issues facing the poor or those without farmland are a result of an undemocratic system. He said that the network submitted proposals to political parties during the election campaign period earlier this year, but found that their proposals had not been included in the policies declared by the new cabinet. There is also no indication that the government is considering their demands or plans to response to their previous petitions. Thus far they have only received a letter telling them that the Prime Minister has been informed.
Activists joined the Four Regions Slum Network yesterday morning (2 October) for their World Habitat Day march, visiting the Democracy Monument, the Ministry of Transport, the UN headquarters, and Government House. They then announced that they are occupying Ratchadamnoen Road in front of an entrance to Government House.
Pachara said that during their march to Government House, the police blocked the Makkhawan Rangsan Bridge, which angered several protest leaders, who remarked that it was as if nothing had changed, even though the new government claims to be democratic. Pachara added that since yesterday evening (2 October), there have been attempts by the police to make them move.
Police from Dusit Police Station ordered protesters to move to the traffic island in front of the UN headquarters, claiming that protests within 50 metres of Government House are prohibited. Officers told P-Move leaders that they must move by 13.00, but activist Jamnong Nupan said that the network had already inform Nang Loeng Police Station that they would be gathering at Government House until 20 October.
This morning (3 October), P-Move issued a statement reiterating that they have not seen any indication that the new government is willing to implement their proposals, noting that police officers attempted to block the World Habitat Day march, and also tried to pressure them into moving the location of their protest in an attempt to restrict freedom of expression.
The network demands that the government under Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin negotiate with the activists and guarantee the implementation of the proposed policies with cabinet resolutions. The government must also ensure that the protesters will not be prosecuted for demonstrating.
Police officers negotiating with P-Move leaders during the afternoon of 3 October. (Photo from P-Move)
The protesters remain next to the entrance to Government House. The entrance is currently blocked by crowd control police carrying shields and a row of police truck.
Pachara said that the network does not want the government to follow its predecessors by forming a special committee to consider matters. They are prepared for a long protest, he said, and will only leave after a cabinet resolution is issued guaranteeing that each of their proposals will be implemented.
“The lessons we have learned during the past 9 years under the Prayuth government is that committees are used to buy time or stall,” he said. “In some cases, they might address urgent problems, but we found that they make no progress in terms of policy, which means that we are still caught in a cycle of fixing issues. This time, our focus is to speak directly to the Prime Minister about what we want for each issue.”
Pachara acknowledged that some might criticise the network for protesting too soon, since the new cabinet has just been appointed, but said that the issues they are campaigning about are urgent, and that the government’s policies, even policies proposed by the Pheu Thai Party, are cause for concern.
“Most parties in this government know P-Move and what we have been campaigning for, because they are the same parties that were in the last government,” he said, “and it is urgent because we look at the government’s policy declaration, and some policies proposed by the Pheu Thai party, and we look at how Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin acts, and we found grounds for concern that the problems we are trying to fix may get worse. The old problems have not been solved and may get worse.”