Confessions of the 'whistle' anti-govt protesters


Bangkok has been rocked by street demonstrations again. This time the pro-establishment protesters do not have a colour to represent them, but a whistle. They are not ‘whistle-blowers’ in the western sense though. They are trying to overthrow the elected government which won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats. The so-called whistle demonstrations started with the issue of the blanket amnesty, which they said would exonerate the self-exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from corruption and mass murder charges. The rally has now transformed into an anti-government protest, led by Suthep Thaugsuban, former number two in the leading opposition pro-establishment Democrat Party. Apart from ousting the current administration, led by Thaksin’s younger sister, they say their ultimate goal is to get rid of the so-called “Thaksin regime,” or to completely cleanse Thai politics of Thaksin and his cronies and establish a “true democracy with the King as the head of state”. The demonstrators are now seizing state agency offices, such as the Finance Ministry compound.

Déjà vu? It is not the first time Thailand has seen anti-Thaksin demonstrations at least twice before: once in 2006 which paved the way for the coup d’etat, and again in 2008 when protesters seized Government House and Thailand’s international airports. Still, it is an open secret that Thaksin administers the country from overseas. Suthep himself admitted on the stage that the Thaksin regime would return despite a fresh election. The question for the demonstrators is obvious: What do they hope for from their rally? How can they literally eliminate the Thaksin regime? Is coup d'etat an option? Prachatai’s Thaweeporn Kummetha talked with four people who have joined the whistle-blowing demonstrations to explore their thoughts and desires.

Thawichai, 61, retired engineer

Why have you joined the rally?

Because I loathe Thaksin Shinawatra. I want an end to all Thaksin-related issues. I wish to see Thailand without Thaksin and his cronies. I don’t want to see the government administered by Thaksin behind the scenes; votes in parliament for Thaksin, politicians pulling the wires by having secret meetings with Thaksin, among others. I also wish to see Thai politics with zero corruption. Pheu Thai can continue as the government, but it should stop acting disgustingly like this. The government looks like a gang with Thaksin pulling strings from overseas. 

What is the outcome you hope for from the rally?

 My hope is very high. I wish to see a moral government. Anyway, the rally leaders may talk [of their goals] but whether the rally can achieve them is another story. I’ll be satisfied when the Thaksin regime is defeated. How to achieve that goal? I have no idea. When the protesters shout “Get out” it doesn’t only mean to get them out of parliament, but to have Thaksin and his cronies stop meddling in politics.

 Anyway, even if we win, the Democrat Party would not lead the government because all of them said on the stage that they did not stage the rally in order to become the government. And I believe this. The Democrats are just like me who hates Thaksin so much. This is unlike Pheu Thai who supported the red shirts during their demonstrations in order to rule the country for Thaksin. 

What do you think about involving the institution of the monarchy in the rally against the Thaksin regime?

 The Democrats have not spoken much about the King so far, but at the rally led by the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand, the protest leaders there speak about the monarchy a lot. I understand that because they are young people and may not have much information about Thaksin, so they chose to speak about the King instead, which is a topic that easily touches the rally supporters. Anyway, I’m happy that at least university students are participating in the rally.

Do you wish to see a coup d’état?

 Well, if there’s a coup which can get rid of the Thaksin regime, I’ll be happy to support it. Whatever means can oust the regime, I’ll support. The crisis has been going on for seven to eight years now and it is very boring. So hypothetically, if there’s a coup, I’ll have a hope that it can solve the problems that the last coup d’état couldn’t solve.

Do you still put your hope in coups despite the fact that Thailand has had more than 10 coups?

 Although we have had more than 10 coups, each time, the coup makers staged the coup for themselves. I was very happy when I heard the news about the 2006 coup. In the end it did not achieve much, but it did ‘hurt’ Thaksin a bit. I think that’s enough.

Visut Chanpipattanachai, 43, engineer

Why have you joined the rally?

 Thai politics is now at the crossroads. We need to choose whether we will accept the current kind of democracy in which we have to accept the majority through elections. I went to the Philippines several times. 10 years ago, the then-president Ferdinand Marcos ruled through populism just like Thaksin. The Philippines has transformed itself into a democracy through several tyrant leaders who got the power from grassroots voters. Corruption continues and has eroded the country until it could not develop. If we don’t do anything and allow this kind of democracy in our country . . . I can’t be sitting by and let this continue in Thailand. I went out on the street not because of the King issue nor because I like the Democrats, but because I don’t accept the majority rule of Thaksin.

 What is the outcome you hope for from the rally? 
I wish to see this end by having all the politicians, from Pheu Thai, Democrats and all the others, suspended from their political careers. Then we can start everything all over again from zero. A National Legislative Assembly should be established. People from all parties and classes should be re-educated [about politics and democracy]. People in each class now think only of their own benefits and ignore the repercussions for the country as a whole. For example, the rice mortgage scheme may really benefit the grassroots but it has badly affected the country. Moreover, the patron-client system has plagued Thai society. All these bar Thailand from achieving true democracy.  

If there is a parliamentary dissolution or the premier resigns, I believe things will return to the same. I accept the allegation that I don’t respect the rules but I don’t want a coup. I wish to see a solution with public participation. I don’t want to return the power to the elite nor the King. I don’t believe that [the grassroots] will be able to develop their understanding of Thai politics by themselves, at least during my life time. 

What do you think about involving the institution of the monarchy in the rally against the Thaksin regime?

I am not so interested in this matter. I know they involve the King in order to attract more people. Anyway, if there were two choices between the monarchy and politicians, I’d choose the King because all politicians we have now are very bad.

Bai Sisai, 57, village headman of Ban Pa Mai in northeastern Mukdaharn province, farmer and rubber grower

Why have you joined the rally?

I joined the rally because this current administration is not a democratic one. It is rather rule by a tyrant majority. I myself am a farmer and can’t accept this. I’m not satisfied with many policies, including the 300 baht minimum wage and the rice mortgage scheme. These policies have badly affected farmers. The government said their financial status would get better, but I don’t think so. I am neither red nor yellow. I’m not a supporter of the Democrats or Pheu Thai. I just don’t want to see a divisive society anymore. I want no more violence. However, I want an end to the Thaksin regime. Since the Pheu Thai government does not comply with the Constitutional Court’s ruling, it does not have the legitimacy to cling on to power.

What is the outcome you hope for from the rally?

The government should resign. I wish to see a national government which truly represents the people in this country. I don’t want a new political party emerging from the old parties. I wish to see an unelected national government rule Thailand for 10-15 years until peace and unity return to the country. Then we may have elections again.

Do you wish to see a coup d’état?

I don’t want the military involved in politics. I don’t want a coup, but the people ourselves will seize the power from the government. 
Kanit surname withheld, 30, creative worker

Why have you joined the rally?

I didn’t actually join the rally. I just passed by so I decided to listen to the protest leaders. I also went to the red shirts’ protest at Ratchaprasong. I want to listen to all sides and feel the atmosphere in order to have right information.

The people should demonstrate their power when the government makes a bad decision. However, I think the demonstration at Ratchadamnoen had a hidden agenda and I don’t want to be used.

What is that hidden agenda?

To overthrow the current government. They first raised the blanket amnesty as the reason to rally, but now it has transformed into an anti-government rally to overthrow the Thaksin regime. They cannot compete in the game, so they use people who share the same enemy.

What do you want the government to do?

I want to see an election. The Pheu Thai government should be reminded that the voters are watching them. They are not easily deceived. I wish to see this government show its responsibility by dissolving parliament and then proving itself in the election. It there’s an election again soon, I’ll vote no. But whoever becomes the government, I’m ok with it. I’m ok if Pheu Thai becomes the leading party again. I just want Pheu Thai to show its responsibility by a dissolution, resignation or apology.

Do you wish to see a coup?

Definitely not. I have been feeling guilty for giving a rose to soldiers after the 2006 coup. If there was no coup, we would not be as divided as we are now. 

Featureed photo courtesy of Vioice TV

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