Counter-protest poised to challenge Pitak Siam

Boonlert under fire for backing anti-govt group

Former army chief Chaisit Shinawatra says he is ready to mobilise supporters to counter the rally planned by the anti-government Pitak Siam group.

Chaisit Shinawatra, standing second from right in the second row, leads alumni of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School at the Miracle Grand Hotel in Bangkok to show their opposition to the Pitak Siam group’s move to hold a second anti-government rally later this month. SURAPOL PROMSAKA NA SAKOLNAKORN

Pitak Siam will hold its second rally on Nov 24 or 25, campaign organiser Boonlert Kaewprasit said this week.

The first rally by Pitak Siam, at the Royal Turf Club on Oct 28, drew about 20,000 people, according to organisers.

Police, however, said the number was closer to 7,000.

Gen Boonlert said he was confident the next rally will be much bigger than the first.

Gen Chaisit and a group of alumni of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School met at the Miracle Grand Hotel in Laksi yesterday to show their opposition to Gen Boonlert's movement.

They also denounced Gen Boonlert for his support of a coup to overthrow the government.

Gen Chaisit, a cousin of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said he was confident that he could stage a counter-rally attracting many more supporters than the Pitak Siam group without spending any money.

He said Pitak Siam's rallies are only financed by groups involved in improper activities.

Gen Chaisit urged Gen Boonlert, who is also an alumni of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School, not to become a political tool of others.

"Those who join with Gen Boonlert are disappointed people who have lost political benefits," Gen Chaisit said.

"They cannot win seats in parliament so they take to the streets and use [Gen Boonlert]."

The country's general situation is now stable and the democratic system should be allowed to take its course and not be disrupted by street protests, Gen Chaisit said.

Thanu Sriyangkura, who studied at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School's Class 5, called on Gen Boonlert to resign as chairman of the school's alumni foundation so as to protect the reputation of the school.

He said the alumni of the school would not allow people harbouring anti-democracy ideas to get their way.

Gen Thanu said it was wrong for Gen Boonlert to call for the military to stage a coup to bring down a democratically elected government.

Gen Boonlert should think again about his anti-government movement and listen to suggestions by other alumni, Gen Thanu said, adding that many soldiers wanted to maintain neutrality.

Gen Thanu said army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha was right when he voiced disagreement with the call for the military to stage a coup.

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Writer: Wassana Nanuam
Position: Reporter