Suthep vows to fight Thaksin regime from the streets
After 35 years with the Democrat Party, it appears that former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban is about to become one of the many antigovernment protest leaders. When the Pheu Thai Party won the election, his belief that the Yingluck Shinawatra administration would try to exonerate ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra of his wrongdoings appeared to be justified. In a countermove, he initiated a plan for his party to hold a series of "Reveal the Truth" rallies in each of Thailand's provinces. On August 7, when Parliament was deliberating the first reading of a governmentproposed amnesty bill, Suthep and other Democrat leaders led a protest march. He is waiting for the bill to pass all three readings before launching another series of mass rallies called "Blow a Whistle". Before the planned "D-Day", Suthep spoke to The Nation's Hataikarn Treesuwan on his new role as a protester.
ARE YOU READY TO RESIGN AS A DEMOCRAT MP BEFORE LEADING ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS?
Resigning is not the issue. A lot of red-shirt leaders are in Parliament, so I do not need to [resign]. But I'm going to separate from the Democrat Party to fight with the people and stop the Thaksin regime. I cannot invite the Democrats to leave Parliament and protest with me, because the party has a long political history to uphold.
WILL YOU AND THE DEMOCRAT PARTY GO YOUR SEPARATE WAYS AFTER YOU "BLOW A WHISTLE" TO START THE MASS RALLIES?
I have not fallen out with the Democrat Party [laughing]. On that day [of the rallies], I will work with the protest leaders to fight for fairness. The mass rallies may even topple this puppet government. That's why the Democrat Party cannot protest with me. At that point, they will have to say goodbye to me.
WILL YOUR DEMOCRAT COLLEAGUES SEND YOU TO JOIN THE ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS AT URUPONG INTERSECTION, LUMPINI PARK, OR TO A NEW RALLY SITE?
They will not be involved in that decision - I will decide for myself. I have talked with some anti-government groups and we have agreed that our first priority is to fight the Thaksin regime. I don't know how many people are with us - I cannot count all the fish in the sea - but I know that I'm ready to join other anti-government groups. However, I will not kill and burn [use violence].
I have invited people to gather at city halls across the country, but it will be different from the behaviour of red-shirts during the protests three years ago [during the government-crackdown on protesters at Ratchaprasong in 2010].
Many people have said they appreciate my street campaigns and will follow me. Older generations will be my main supporters when it comes to occupying provincial halls. They will not bring guns, but will sit in the governor's office while chewing betel nut; they will sit in chairs and on the stairs - rejecting the authority of the current government. They will tell officials to stop being Thaksin's slaves and return home. "We will watch the town halls for you," that's what they will say.
YOUR FIRST GOAL IS TO SEIZE SURAT THANI'S PROVINCIAL HALL, RIGHT? [SUTHEP IS AN MP OF THE SOUTHERN PROVINCE.]
Of course, I will go to Surat Thani Provincial Hall - the police are preparing to welcome me. Many other people who agree with me will occupy other town halls. They will enter them - one by one - until they are full. We may also campaign for a nationwide strike and a ban on Shinawatra products.
WHAT IS THE WORST-CASE SCENARIO FOR YOU IN THIS FIGHT?
I may end up in jail or get injured, but I don't care. Who can say what will happen next? I'm not looking for glory, but I would feel guilty, if I did nothing. However, if I'm successful, then so will the Democrats. I don't think too much about succeeding [chuckling].
DO YOU THINK YOU WILL END YOUR 35-YEAR POLITICAL CAREER ON THE ROAD WITH ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTERS?
Absolutely not! On August 7, I asked Khun Chuan [Chuan Leekpai, Democrat chief adviser] the same question when Democrat MPs led thousands of protesters from Urupong Intersection to Parliament to protest against the amnesty bill. He said he joined the rally without thinking about the consequences, but my path ahead will be a more difficult one.
I'm not asking anyone to join me - not even my younger brothers [MPs Shane Thaugsuban and Thani Thaugsuban]. I said to them, "It's your choice - your lives are your own."