January 17, 2014 00:00 By Pongphon Sarnsamak The Nation
The Nonthaburi-based chapter of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) is preparing to turn the Public Health Ministry into its headquarters.
The plan was unveiled after its demonstrators entered the ministry’s compound in Nonthaburi but without forcing officials to stop working.
“We will set up a stage, kitchens and prayer rooms for Muslim demonstrators here,” Rachen Trakulviang said in his capacity as the chair of the group.
He said screens would be erected in the ministry’s compound on which demonstrators could watch the live broadcast of proceedings on the main stage at the Pathumwan intersection in Bangkok. Former senator and health advocate Jon Ungpakorn, meanwhile, has urged the ministry’s permanent-secretary Dr Narong Sahametapat to resign following his announced desire not to work with the government.
Hundreds of PDRC protesters yesterday entered the ministry to ramp up pressure on the Yingluck Shinawatra-led caretaker government.
Protesters led by Issara Somchai, a key PDRC leader, also stormed the Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine Department, suspecting caretaker minister Pradit Sintavanarong might have been hiding inside the building.
Issara had instructed his security guards to use keys and chains to lock one room of the department as a symbol of blocking the ministry.
Rachen said his group would not cut power and water supplies to the ministry as protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban had not ordered it.
He said cutting the utilities would affect the pharmaceutical and medical equipment kept at the ministry.
As there are two hospitals located around the ministry, Rachen said his group would not block the road and would help patients access the hospitals. He added that his group was considering measures to encourage more government officials to join its rally.
“We may launch a flash-mob campaign at the ministry,” he said.
In Nonthaburi province, the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (UDD) is also active.
Rachen said he and UDD leaders had already agreed avoid confrontation.
“We have resolved that we want Nonthaburi to be a model for peaceful demonstration,” he said.
In a related development, Jon suggested Narong not drag the ministry into the arena of political movements.
“He should resign and tell the public about his reason to quit the ministry, instead of announcing the ministry will not work with the government.” he said.
However, he was not worried that Narong’s expressing his political stance would create further conflict in the ministry or other government agencies.
A housekeeper who wanted to be unnamed said she would be affected by the PDRC’s movement to block the ministry as she would not be able to enter the building to work and get paid by her company. “I will not get my daily wages if I can’t work,” she said.