January 12, 2014 00:00
By Kornchanok Raksaseri,
Protest leader Suthep sees victory, says he doesn't want a coup and the people, not him, must decide future
TWO DAYS before the “Shutdown”, People’s Democratic Reform Committee secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban felt cosy and relaxed.
On Children’s Day – yesterday – he briefly had noodles for lunch and rushed to take pictures with admirers, a lot of who were children, lining up in front of the noodle shop.
“I am pretty sure today that we won’t lose the fight – I just don’t know how we will win,” he said.
Suthep took a break from examining three bullets found at the PDRC rally site near Khok Wua Intersection earlier in the morning and writing his plan for the day and gave an exclusive interview to Nation Group in the lobby of an underground floor of Baan Dinso Hotel. This was near a corner of Democracy Monument, the PDRC rally site. But security in front of the hotel was tight.
Despite having fought on the street against the Yingluck government since the end of October, the 64-year-old veteran politician refused to give up – even if the government decides to postpone the election.
However, he vowed to retreat if there is serious violence.
“If it becomes a civil war, I will give up. People’s life is precious for me,” he said. “If someone instigates a civil war, I will tell the people to go home.”
Suthep said he had no worry but has prepared tight security measures to protect protesters for the rallies. Among the seven main rally sites from Monday, he said sensitive spots would be at Victory Monument and Lat Phrao intersection.
He will today distribute prayer scripts for the protesters and he has told them to stay calm and peaceful if there is a crackdown.
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He revealed that fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra had sent some people to talk, but he refused to elaborate saying he would not negotiate and he could not do so as only the people – not him – could decide.
On relations with Thaksin, Suthep said his rival had asked him many times to join his party but he refused. Meanwhile, the trust was broken when Thaksin missed an appointment when, as political opponents, they had agreed to meet with a very prominent person before the military coup in 2006.
Although he did not rule out the possibility of a coup, Suthep said he did not want it.
“I want to see a people’s revolution, a peaceful one,” he said.
“The military would have to work hard if it stages a coup. Our society, our country has changed. Foreign countries, outside communities would not accept it [a coup]. The military would face difficulty working. But in terms of government officials, the military, police or civil servants can join with the people in a people’s revolution. Foreign countries have no right to interfere as this is a matter for the people,” he said.
Suthep denied close links or support by the military. He said no soldier took part in strategic planning.
He said the protesters had lost patience with the “Thaksin regime”. They had stopped asking him when the fight would end and insisted on fighting until they win. But no matter if the PDRC wins or loses this battle, Suthep sees it as a victory as the people have gained a sense of political responsibility in their minds. People, including children, are no longer ignorant, he feels.
“The people have realised that they, all together, have to be responsible for the country. That thought has been on their minds already and it will remain on their minds,” he said.
He recalled his plan when he was still working on Democrat Party ‘Reveal the Truth’ rallies. He expected that people would lose patience with the “Thaksin regime” and that this would come in mid-2014. However, the government’s push for an amnesty bill sped up the process earlier than he had anticipated.
Suthep said there would not be an election on February 2 – or if efforts were made to go ahead with it, there would be many vacant MP seats in Bangkok and the South.
“With such MP seat vacancies, the election would be useless as the House would not be able to convene,” he said, because it would lack the required number of MPs for a legal quorum. Suthep was confident about the PDRC’s proposals on national reform.
He refused any compromise or negotiation. Once the government could no longer function, people would become sovereign holders of power and their orders would become law.
“The people’s assembly will exclude politicians. Otherwise, you won’t be able to change laws on elections, political parties and corruption,” Suthep said, noting that people who take part in the assembly must be banned from politics for five years.
“The standard of Thai politics would be higher. Politicians will no longer dare to do things without caring for the people,” he said.
According to the reform plan, anyone will be able to petition a corruption case in court and such cases would have no statute of limitations. Elections must be free and fair, and people want power decentralised and would not accept corrupt policies. The national police would have to be restructured. These were priorities that must be finished within a year or 18 months, he said.