Puppet masters must leave shade
'Free our Friends" is the latest rallying message of the three-fingered movement and has appeared at all protests since the movement's four core leaders, namely Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Patiwat Saraiyam were denied bail by the Criminal Court and sent to Bangkok Remand Prison on Feb 8.
It was intended to woo public support for their demand for the release of core leaders Panusaya "Rung" Sitthijirawattanakul, Panupong Jadnok, alias Mike Rayong, Chatupat Boonpatthararaksa or Pai Daodin and Piyarat "Toto" Chongthep from remand prison at every protest alongside their core theme of reform of the monarchy.
So far, the "Free our Friends" message has not succeeded in generating the big crowds, to the tune of tens of thousands, that the movement has wanted, even if the March 24 protest at the Ratchaprasong shopping district did show signs of improvement.
The location itself, which is conveniently accessible via the metro system, may have been the biggest contributor to the increased turnout that day.
Clearly, it has had little impact on the court changing its mind and granting bail for the eight core members and other remanded followers, just as a petition to the court, co-signed by dozens of academics, demanding their release, citing the principle of presumption of innocence, also failed to prompt them.
The court has the discretion to grant or deny bail for the accused, depending on the behaviour of each individual. Parit, for an example, is a repeat offender and has been granted bail before.
In exercising its discretion, the court can deny him bail on the ground that he is likely to reoffend if he is freed on bail. Moreover, he is as defiant as ever and has never shown any sign that he regrets the alleged lese majeste offence.
Many people on the right of the debate may decry the statement by Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement Group and anti-monarchist lecturer at Thammasat University, that the three-fingered leaders should be freed as keeping them behind bars will not change their mind on the monarchy.
Or the rationale given by several academics that denying bail for Parit and Ms Panusaya by the court is depriving them of their right to education and, hence, ruin their future.
Why didn't they warn the two Ratsadon core leaders they were playing with fire and could get burned if they kept mocking or insulting the monarchy? Is it because they were afraid of the backlash from the students or their followers?
Clearly, many students have been exploited. The script of the 10-point manifesto about reform of the monarchy which was read by Ms Panusaya at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus on Aug 10 which landed her with the first lese majeste charge was not her own initiative, but was given to her by a lecturer.
Equally, the script that was read by Patsaravalee "Mind" Tanakitvibulpon at the rally at Ratchaprasong intersection on March 24 about additional demands for reform of the monarchy was allegedly given to her by someone believed to be an anti-monarchist.
A lese majeste charge has already been lodged against her with Lumpini police by a man on top of a similar charge for her role in front of the German embassy in Bangkok in demanding the German government check on HM the King's use of his authority on German soil last October.
The young engineering student may not care that this trouble is about to ruin her future.
It is, indeed, pitiful that she believes what she and her fellow protesters have been doing is to protect the monarchy.
What if she is thrown behind bars for reading the script in question while the actual writer remains scot free? That is unfair, cold-blooded and sheer exploitation of a young mind.
All the string pullers should come out into the open to give a shot in the arm to the three-fingered movement and to rally public support if they truly believe that their political idea will benefit this country and its people.
Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.