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Protest in Bangkok against Thai junta’s rule draws thousands

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{mosimage}FORUM-ASIA participated in a protest in downtown Bangkok marking the sixth month of the Thai junta’s rule. The 18 March protest is a profound backlash against the failure of the junta in fulfilling its promises, and saw about 3,000 people march from Sanam Luang Park to the residence of General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council.

{mosimage} Six months have passed since the 19 September coup in Thailand and yet the junta, under the guise of a people-supported interim constitution, continues to thread out constitutional fictions in order to maintain its power. It utters that “the new charter will involve the people from Thailand”, when truth be told, the junta leads the many bodies, including but not limited to, the National Legislative Assembly and the National People’s Assembly. It continues to elaborate with democratic jargon, e.g. “the people have approved the draft constitution”, when in fact, as time progresses, the junta will inevitably write its own charter according to its wishes.

The mass protest on 18 March, marking the sixth month of the junta’s rule, is a profound backlash against the failure of the junta in fulfilling its promises; that it will step down; that it will limit the authority of the Council for National Security (CNS) to specific security issues; that it will ensure the interim constitution will fully guarantee civil liberties and rights; that general elections will be held soon; that the government will meet all its international obligations; and the biggest fiction of all, that it will restore and strengthen democracy.

The march from Sanam Luang Park to the residence of General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, was a manifestation of the people’s anger, a protest of striking difference from the generations before. The protestors are a group with a keener awareness of their constitutional rights, and that if the junta continues to dispense its lies, it will struggle to gain even an ounce of credibility.

Among the 3,000 protestors, five different human rights defenders were interviewed as to why they marched. Their voices represent the spirit of the protest.

Chanakan Phundeamvong, Coordinator for the September 19 Network; Sub-commissioner, NHRC Thailand

"There is confirmation that Prem’s residence is the headquarters of the CNS. We need to remind him that the people know that he is pulling the strings behind the military. We want to expose him and let him know that the people are not ignorant. This is why we are marching to his house. The people do not want him or the military rulers. We want to pull him out and show him that people are not powerless.

We know the true intentions and the failures of the junta. They only want to bring back bureaucracy, and power to the conservatives, not to the people.

They keep on lying. They are not approved by the people despite what they tell the world. The people do not and never supported the coup.

Although I have never been threatened directly, as a human rights defender, I am aware of these things. I am aware of the restrictions of our rights and I will always keep my eyes open and fight to expose these wrongdoings. "

Soonthon Bunyon, Workers Reform Group

" I am simply exercising my right. I am against all coups. A coup is an evil tool which cuts out all people participation. Also, I do not believe this coup will address the questions and issues of our working class. This is a step backwards for all groups in Thailand.

The coup plotters represent the feudal class. When they had their benefits and interests taken away by Thaksin, they just decided to use the people as an excuse and claim power.

I want them to know that they threw away the best constitution which was drafted by the people (1997 Constitution), which really stressed the rights of the people and the people’s rights for political participation. I get angry when I hear their lies about how the coup is supported by the people and that the current situation is approved by us. This is not true. It is all a set-up.

Although I am a defender of the rights of workers, I am unable to call for strikes. We cannot protest. I hope we expose all of this in today’s protest. "


Saruwant Pratoomrat, Human Rights Defender

{mosimage}"This is a protest against the coup. I am exercising my right to protest against the coup. To me, the coup is illegitimate and the current government does not and cannot exist.

This coup was simply the result of a power struggle between people who do not deserve to claim power. They exploit power and they are corrupt, just as corrupt as the former prime minister. When Thaksin showed signs of corruption, the military pounced and used this to their own benefit and used this to gain ‘support’ from the people.

The majority of people did not want this coup. It was only the middle class who did not want their interests taken away from the former government. I feel angry but also helpless. As a Human Rights Defender, I feel my Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression has been questioned and taken away from me. The protest will show all of this. These people are evidence that we are against the coup. "


Thanapol Eawasakul, Journalist

{mosimage}"I am not a supporter of Thaksin but I am against the coup. Staging a coup means that imagination for people’s participation is crushed and all possibilities of social movement are restricted. There is no space for people. This has become a dependency democracy. It has been six months and nothing has changed.

I was part of an anti-coup newsletter. In it, we wrote how it was true that Thaksin had hidden his assets but we stressed that the budget for the military is actually rising at the moment. How is this better?

Also, the government is now saying it is helping the people because it halted the Thai-US FTA but what about the FTA agreements with Japan? The government keeps on putting attention to other issues to hide their lies. We protest because we want them to know the end of Thaksin was not the answer and the solution the people want. We want a democracy.

Life has become busier and stressful since the coup. I have been charged with les majeste for my work. I am more restricted but this does not mean I will stop."


Nuthasid Rukkiatwong, Student Activist

{mosimage}"The protest is to put pressure on the Privy Council, and on the chairman. We are going to show him that it is not right for him to get involved in politics.

The coup is just a struggle for power. The military lost their power under Thaksin so they just claimed it, and never had intentions to return it to the people.

I am not surprised when I hear about the lies the junta is telling the world. The middle class is easily manipulated by the coup group but we are not.

It’s true, the anti-Thaksin protests last year paved the way for the military to jump in. They used it to their benefit. As soon as they saw a crack, they used it to enter politics and exploited the people’s anger towards Thaksin. But our march, the protest today will show that just because Thaksin is out, it does not mean the current situation is better. It has become worse. Democracy is fading.

As a Human Rights Defender, I see my friends lose their jobs, I see them struggling in school, just because they want to exercise their rights and because of the restrictions placed on them. This should not and cannot continue. "