Fight not over yet: PAD
50,000 gather in city to celebrate Thaksin's departure; protesters say goal now is 'real' political reform; donations still pouring in
Leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) vowed before a crowd of 50,000 last night to continue their fight until "the Thaksin regime is overthrown and the election result is invalidated".
They said the goal now was to bring about "real political reform" in Thailand.
The group also issued a statement saying Thaksin Shinawatra's departure was no guarantee that he would not be pulling strings behind a new government and the political-reform efforts. The statement also detailed its mission of bringing about real political reform.
"I swear before the Emerald Buddha and the City Pillar Shrine that I will fight on until the Thaksin regime is overthrown, although I may get killed," said Sondhi Limthongkul, one of the PAD leaders.
Other PAD leaders pointed to the need to "uproot the Thaksin regime".
Chamlong Srimuang said: "As long as the Thaksin regime exists, we'll fight on. Take it easy. We'll eventually win although it may take some time."
Somsak Kosaisuk, another PAD leader, urged the group's supporters to be on stand-by and ready to join its next rally whenever it was called.
Having declared its initial victory last night, the PAD will now turn itself into the People's Assembly for Democracy and cooperate with the opposition parties and people around the country to push for political reform, its coordinator said yesterday.
Suriyasai Katasila, who also acts as PAD spokesman, said the group would restructure its organisation by increasing its leaders from five to nine or 11.
It will expand its countrywide network by encouraging member registration, especially in the North and Northeast, Thai Rak Thai voter bases where many of the party's candidates won despite heavy abstentions in Sunday's election.
Among nominees for additional leaders are the head of Chulalongkorn University's Department of Government Administration Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, former senators Nirun Pithakwatchara and Chirmsak Pinthong and Thammasat University law lecturers Banjerd Singkaneti and Prinya Thewanaruemitkul. Kotchawan Chaiyabutr, secretary-general of the Students' Federation of Thailand, has been proposed as a student representative, Suriyasai said.
He said the group would hurl itself into the fight against the administrative tradition of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with frequent mobile rallies in the provinces.
At Sanam Luang yesterday, Senator Kaewsan Atibhodi warned the protesters that though Thaksin had decided to step down as prime minister, the fight to uproot the Thaksin order is not yet over.
"We have only gone through one battle ... We won the battle, though, and 10 million free spirits have awoken," he said in reference to the 10 million who voted against Thaksin by casting a "no vote" option. "The dictatorial system is still around, however. And it's not taking a break [along with Thaksin]."
He defended anti-Thaksin protesters from charges of not respecting electoral rules by saying the election had been distorted into a referendum on Thaksin and what the protesters did was to rescue democracy.
Kaewsan said people should understand Thailand does not need a politician like Thaksin.
The celebration by the anti-Thaksin protesters began early with music interspersed with speeches as people near the stage danced and waved the national flag. Earlier, the famous Caravan band went on stage and later in the evening some English pop music was even sung.
On the very top of the stage's billboard stood a banner that read: "Bring Down the Thaksin Order".
Small balloons in blue and white were given away to protesters with messages like "Thanks to People Power" and "We shall disperse today only to regroup again when it's necessary again in the future".
Free food and water were also distributed but a surplus amount of anti-Thaksin T-shirts were not selling well now that the campaign to oust him is partially accomplished. Donations still kept coming, as Suwit Watnoo, one of the PAD leaders, made frequent announcements on stage. Dozens of black-clad PAD guards carrying black flags received applause from protesters as they marched past them.
"We have to fight on and dismantle the Thaksin order, which is the system of nepotism, and induce people's participation," said Nantaporn Techaprasertsakul, one of the protesters and a staffer at Thai Volunteer Service, a developmental NGO.
The Teachers Front for National Salvation went on stage to declare victory for the people but warned this was only the beginning of a struggle against Thaksin. "The government must introduce educational reform and the second round of political reform," the group said.
Porntip Fonwarnfah, coordinator of the Budhikarn Buddhist network, is spear-heading the collection of a contact list of protesters who want to be updated on the progress in dismantling the "Thaksin order" through non-violent means. By early evening, some 3,000 people had signed up, she said.
"We'll provide information to the people. Thaksin must be scrutinised," she said, adding measures such as continued boycotting of Shin Corp products and possible tax-payment delays were some of the means to achieve the goal. "I'm worried that Thaksin's replacement will be a mere proxy. Thaksin is still powerful," she said.
Some of the demonstrators came straight from their offices. One official from the Ministry of Justice, who asked not to be named, was wearing the familiar "national salvation" yellow bandana over his head.