ACTIVISTS DECLARE ‘ROAD MAP’ OF ANTI-JUNTA PROTESTS TO RESTORE DEMOCRACY
PRO-DEMOCRACY groups have proclaimed the beginning of a series of peaceful protests that will take place throughout February and March as a prelude to a larger demonstration in May to ask for a return to the democratic path with a general election.
The Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) said yesterday at a press conference at Thammasat University that the group would launch a series of demonstrations starting with today’s public gathering of the Startup People Thailand group in Nakhon Ratchasima.
It will take place at a public plaza in front of the province’s Thao Suranari statue.
Meanwhile, prominent student activist Rangsiman Rome said there would be many public gatherings in upcoming months to send a signal to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) that political power belongs to the people. There was no other way to persuade the junta to arrange the election and return the power to the people, he said.
Rangsiman urged every citizen, regardless of their political affiliation, to participate.
He said that after the Nakhon Ratchasima demonstration today, there would be a gathering at Thammasat University next Saturday at 3pm, where there would be “some surprises” for the NCPO. The DRG would then campaign on the evenings of March 10 and March 24, but the locations of these events had not yet been decided.
“We will take a break in April to get ready for the larger social movement in May. We are planning to stage a protest every Saturday, before we will gather for a large demonstration from May 19 to May 22 at an area near Thammasat University or Democracy Monument at Ratchadamnoen Avenue. This will be the fourth anniversary of the coup d’etat by the NCPO,” he said.
“We are considering this as the people’s road map to democracy.”
Another student activist, Siriwit Seritiwat, said that Prime Minister and junta leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha continually promised the international community that Thailand would have a democratic election, but had always postponed the date. For this reason, the people have to stand up and announce that it is already time for an election.
“We would like to emphasise that we are campaigning for everyone’s benefit to get rid of the power of the NCPO. This is a matter of public interest and our demonstrations will not violate anybody else’s freedom. Our demand is to stop the NCPO from hanging on to power and push forward for an election this year,” Siriwit said.
“Our enemies are only PM Prayut and deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan.”
Meanwhile, police say they are going after people who they claim are causing confusion on social media to encourage innocent people to join politically-motivated activities.
National police chief General Chaktip Chaichinda has instructed officers to take strong action against anyone who violates the computer crime laws, said Pol Colonel Krissana Patcharern, the deputy police spokesman.
According to Krissana, old video clips, pictures and messages of various protests have been re-edited to create an impression that anti-government demonstrations are happening now.
“These ill-intentioned groups intend to instigate unrest by abusing social media, which is in violation of the computer crime law,” he said, adding that the authorities would bring the lawbreakers to justice.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry’s spokesman insisted that deputy premier General Prawit Wongsuwan would not resign from his current posts amid growing public pressures following the scandal over his possession of luxury watches.
Spokesman Lt-General Kongcheep Tantrawanich said Change.org’s collection of more than 80,000 signatures calling for Prawit to quit would not lead to Prawit’s resignation. Kongcheep said there were supporters of Prawit wanting him to continue his work, but the government is also listening to dissidents wanting the deputy premier and defence minister to resign.
Meanwhile in Khon Kaen yesterday, a representative of the People Go Network, Nimit Tian-udom, announced the successful conclusion of the 450-kilometre “We Walk” long march to campaign on the issues of state welfare, food security, communal rights, and democracy.
Nimit urged all citizens to take more steps to walk away from the fear of state oppression and retake their right to participate in the country’s development.
“Our friendship walk has shown how democracy can still be relished on the road by the people,” Nimit said. “Amid the callous crackdown, the looting of our voting rights, we were made aware that many friends along the way share with us the same ideas. And they shall rise up to uphold popular democracy; their voice shall never fade away from the road.”