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Thai red shirts call for reform, seek end to military coups

Publication Date : 06-05-2012

 

Thai red shirts chair Thida Thavornseth said the red shirt movement will double within five years and will facilitate a legal revamp as well as media reform.

Thida said that if a new Constitution is adopted next year, and the processes of media and justice system reform are conducted accordingly, by 2017 Thailand should be 60-per cent democratic. The number of red-shirt supporters by then should have increased to 30 million.

"I think the number of people who agree with us should increase. Consider the labour force; that should be over 30 million people.

Eligible voters number over 40 million people. Now we have over 10 million supporters, which can be seen from the election result plus those who did not vote for Pheu Thai," she said.

Asked what Thailand would look like if the red shirts dominated the country, Thida said now that Yingluck Shinawatra had been elected the prime minister, Thailand is 20-per cent democratic, as there are appointed senators and members of independent organisations.

"I don't know when Thailand will be 100-per cent democratic. But at least, after the Constitution amendment, we might get 30 per cent to 50 per cent more, as some laws will be better, such as the ones relating to the Senate. Some people might say that some elected people are embarrassing. They are seen to be people from the lower section of society, but they are elected, and that's legitimate," she said. "To have 100-per cent democracy, first, people must see military coups as the worst kind of conduct. Second, the state mechanism must be entirely linked with the people via direct or indirect elections. We don't expect 100 per cent, but 70-80 per cent is alright."

Thida refused to discuss the status of the monarchy in her definition of democracy. She said it would be up to the Constitution Drafting Assembly.

She said the red shirt movement's main aim is to eradicate military coups and fight for equality. All the senators, if the Senate remains, must be elected, she said.

Thida said the red shirts are not necessarily Thaksin's supporters. Thaksin was only a symbol, as he was abused just like the red shirts.

"Whoever takes the people's side is on our side. If you reject military coups, you are one of us," she said. "Are Thaksin and [Deputy Prime Minister] Chalerm Yoobamrung like me? No. There are a lot of elites in the Pheu Thai Party. But if anyone opposes military coups, they're on our side. There's no need to push anyone out just because they think differently. The point is whether to accept military coups," she said.

She said grassroots people love Thaksin because he served their needs. He became a hero because of the military coup.

She said people in the bureaucratic polity network cannot get over Thaksin because they think the red shirts are acting for Thaksin. This is not true, Thida said.

"Even if Thaksin died today, or if we put Thaksin in a space capsule and shot it out of the Earth, or even General Prem likewise, even if he died today or he was put in a capsule and shot away, will there still be fighting? Would the red shirts end their movements if Prem was dead? No. If something happens to Thaksin, will the red shirts stop? No. They will try harder."

On whether it is possible that the red shirts would split from the Pheu Thai Party, Thida said it depended on whether Pheu Thai remained a political party for the masses.

"Our goal is to get away from the bureaucratic polity, and we need justice. So people came and supported us. If we don't fight, we can't stay. People won't accept us and we are not worth it," Thida said about the red shirts. "But the government's duty is to administer the country until the end of its term. Stay as long as possible without any military coup to topple it. If it doesn't do its duty well, people will blame it and it won't be able to stay.

"We have to consider what kind of political party it is; if it's a party of capitalists who think they have money and can win - many MPs think so - if they don't care about the masses, the red shirts, and only want canvassers or want to change the red shirts into canvassers. In that case, the red shirts will have to decide if it will quit, be part of the party or be a fighting agency," she said.

Asked about the red shirts' path to reconciliation, Thida said the question did not concern the group, as creating reconciliation was not its business, but an issue for the government. The red shirts' duty is to call for justice, she said.

"The people do not have to reconcile with the rulers. The people can reconcile among themselves for peace in the country. The only duty of the people is to fight with the rulers. Do not ask the red shirts how to reconcile. This is not our duty," she said.

"You have to first understand the principle. In this world, there are the rulers and the ruled. We are the ruled, we are abused. How could you ask us to reconcile while our people are still in jail and charged with many cases?" Thida said.

She said the red shirts do not oppose the government's reconciliation effort, but their peaceful campaign is the best reconciliation.

Thida, nevertheless, is known to be an advocate for national reconciliation. In private talks with her red shirt supporters, she reportedly always expresses concerns that the ongoing confrontation will only lead to a lose-lose situation.

She accepted that the government has tried to deliver justice to the red shirts via compensation and rehabilitation measures, as well as bail for red shirt detainees. But these are not sufficient, she said.

Real reconciliation, on the other hand, must start with finding the truth - an area in which there has been very little progress, according to Thida. The red shirts have been misunderstood by the global community as fighting with weapons, she said.

"Don't say that the red shirts do not reconcile. We have been very patient in the past five or six years. Some have been jailed, some died. If we don't reconcile, we must have fighting with weapons. But the government's reconciliation measures, such as pouring water [to pay respects], are childish acts done by adults," she said.

Thida stressed the importance of media reform as she said there was a conspiracy to frame the red shirts.

 

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