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Thu, September 28, 2006 : Last updated 20:01 pm (Thai local time)

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Home > Politics > Anti-coup protesters again defy ban on assemblies

Anti-coup protesters again defy ban on assemblies

Anti-coup protesters staged their second "illegal" political discussion and demonstration yesterday.

They criticised the middle class and the elite who accepted the legitimacy of the coup makers and warned that the political rights of the rural poor were being stripped away at an alarming rate.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Prapas Pintobtaeng told a crowd of about 100 people at the university that the houses of Pak Mool villagers in Ubon Ratchathani had been raided by armed officers looking for possible evidence that may prove the group supported ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai Party.

"Political space for the rural poor is disappearing, they have to cancel all assemblies," said Prapas, adding "the restriction of liberty for the middle class may not last long but for the poor, it's likely to be long-term".

Many of the rural poor supported Thaksin's populist policies while many of Bangkok's middle class saw their support as a manipulation of the electoral system.

Prapas urged future governments to introduce comprehensive social welfare programmes for poor people so that they would not be susceptible to electoral manipulation through populist policies.

He also criticised academics who are now lending legitimacy to the self-styled Council of Democratic Reform (CDR).

Giles Ungphakorn, also a political scientist at the same institution, said the hope for Thai democracy now rests on the shoulders of young Thais. He compared the new military junta's rule to the scenario in George Orwell's famous novel, "1984" in which dictators introduced contradictory concepts aimed at social and political control.

The Marxist lecturer said for the CDR to call itself "democratic" is a lie.

"It's pathetic. They even have to lie about their name. So how can we trust them? Well, it is good in a way, I don't want to see more conflict between Thailand and Burma," he said, referring to Thailand's northern neighbour, which is also ruled by a military junta.

"Those academics who are fake libertarians and fake democrats are telling students they must accept the legitimacy of dictators because we have no other choice. But dictatorship cannot give birth to democracy," he said amid a backdrop of banners that bore messages like, "The society will be good if we use tanks, ha, ha, ha"; "We hate dicktatorship" and more.

He said the middle class has revealed its failure to understand democracy as it supported the coup.

Giles also lashed out at the Democrat Party for being docile in accepting the coup and for failing to address the rural poor through its policies.

Sirote Klampaiboon, a doctoral political science candidate at the University of Hawaii warned that the junta is now following in the same footsteps of Thaksin by centralising power and using undemocratic means to draft the constitution, adding that any political reform without the people's participation cannot yield positive results.

Pattawit Thambutdee, a political science student at Chulalongkorn compared the coup to an act of burning a flower garden to remove the weeds. "Nobody can guarantee that this will be the last [coup], and it will be hard to grow the garden back again," said Pattawit. The group vowed to stage more discussions and protests.

In a related development, four law lecturers at Thammasat University issued a statement condemning the coup makers for "disrespecting the will of the people". The groups, led by well-known law lecturer Vorajaet Phakeerat, added that the forced nullification of the 1997 People's Constitution also destroyed the social contract and was "unacceptable".

"We oppose and condemn the restriction of people's rights to assembly and the banning of any dissent through the mass media," he said.

Pravit Rojanaphruk

The Nation

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