'Gang of four' former MPs now leading mobile protest marches aimed at putting further pressure on the government
February 11, 2014 00:00 By HATAIKARN TREESUWAN THE NATIO
THIS IS not the first time that protesters have used a "marching around" strategy to put pressure on the government.
A group of fast-moving protest teams were set up by the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to march across Bangkok and occupy state agencies that remain in operation, as ordered by PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban.
The main team was led by four young bloods, the PDRC’s so-called “gang of four” – Chumpol Julasai, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Nataphol Teepsuwan and Sakoltee Phattiyakul. They are former Democrat MPs who resigned to fight alongside Suthep against the “Thaksin regime”.
Basically, a day before leading the main procession, the gang of four attended a meeting with PDRC leaders to analyse the situation and plan a rally, Chumpol said.
He said they have four main issues that need to be managed – preparing to organise 500-3,000 demonstrators in a group for a fast-moving protest, calling a meeting of 30 guards to plan their work, checking information about the targeted site that the PDRC wants to take control of via undercover agents, and setting the time of the operation by trying to finish the job in a short time to prevent a negative outcome.
Chumpol said PDRC leaders could get very good information from government officials who work at sites, before heading to seize those compounds.
“Last Monday we besieged the Office of the Permanent Secretary for the Defence Ministry to force the caretaker government from using it as an office. Someone had sent us a little note saying ‘Where is the working room of caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra? Where is the place where the Cabinet will sit? What are the car number plates of Cabinet ministers?’” he said.
Over the past three months, the gang of four has led protesters to gather at government offices more than 10 times. Suthep told them that they had to concentrate on the rally and did not allow a third hand to disrupt the peace at rally sites, Chumpol said.
“For me, the hardest thing is to convince the demonstrators, who have followed us to join a group in a fast-moving protest, to go back to the main rally sites after completing ‘symbolic activities’. I had to spend a lot of time to give them an explanation,” he said.
Operating as a gang of four, they have no specified task that they should do – anyone can do what they want instead of others. The main chore is to deliver a speech, negotiate with state officials and keep a close eye on the protest, one of them said.
The group had to assess the situation to determine what to do. “If the situation was turning into a crisis, Suthep would phone to order them to lead protesters to return to the main rally sites right away,” the source said.
Suthep had talked to them on the phone at least four times as they led people to occupy four destinations – the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB), Lak Si district office, the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence, and the Labour Ministry – according to the source.
“If it was not Suthep’s demand, I had no way of following,” said Chumpol, who Suthep always calls by his nickname “Luk Mhee” (little bear).
Asked if he had been upset after clashes broke out, Chumpol said he was a sensitive man but never cried for this fight.
“I did not feel guilty over the day [in late January] I brought demonstrators to the Army Club [to stage a rally during which a protester from another group was shot]. But I felt really bad on the day I had to leave the elderly and female demonstrators behind at our rally base, as I had to lead male demonstrators to another spot and red shirts happened to show up near our base that day. Fortunately, no one was hurt,” he said.
While the “gang of four” leads the PDRC protest marches around Bangkok, they hope the game will end soon. “No one in my team wants to be a hero. If Yingluck quits as PM, I’ll go back to my home,” Chumpol said.