Democracy on wane since protest: UDD

Democracy on wane since protest: UDD

Politics 'hamstrung by one-sided charter'

Jatuporn: 'Public unrest growing'
Jatuporn: 'Public unrest growing'

The overall political situation has changed for the worse since the red shirt protest in 2010 with democracy regressing and people's power suffering a setback, claims Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the red-shirt United Front for Democrat against Dictatorship (UDD).

Mr Jatuporn told the Bangkok Post yesterday that people with opposing views who engaged in political conflicts over the past 10 years agree that the public are taking the brunt of unprecedented political and economic downturns.

"I think all sides, be they the government, the opposition or academics must come together and sort out the problems.

"If we hold on to our beliefs and refuse to listen to others, we'll head down the path to destruction and there will be no country left to save," he said.

The protest built up steam after the protest sites were combined into a single venue at the Ratchaprasong intersection where it was ultimately dispersed by the military on May 19, 2010.

The UDD-led group had set its sights on overthrowing the Abhisit Vejjajiva government and bringing down the "amart" or privileged groups it blamed for being instrumental in the late 2008 political watershed triggered by the dissolution of the People's Power Party.

The red shirts defined the amart system as an old elite network of patronage and believed it had influence over independent organisations under the 2007 constitution and military. The UDD heaped its blame on the late president of the Privy Council, Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, who the group called the "chief amart".

Converging in Bangkok, the 2010 protesters mostly came from the provinces. They piled pressure on the government by staging marches and pouring blood outside Government House and Mr Abhisit's residence. The protest leaders and the government held talks but could not settle on a date to dissolve the House.

After the protest, 24 UDD leaders, including then movement chairman Veerakarn Musikapong, Mr Jatuporn and UDD secretary-general Nattawut Saikuar were charged with terrorism. However, on Aug 14 last year, the Criminal Court acquitted them due to a lack of witnesses. The court also found the protest was an exercise of political rights.

The red shirts have learned a painful lesson from the 2010 protest which has gone down in history as a bloody event. "This is history that cannot be altered," he said.

Achieving lasting peace means first putting aside personal differences and respecting the law, he added.

Meanwhile, different conflicts are reportedly being played out within the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, which complicates matters and inhibits Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's ability to execute the country's policies.

The country may be running into an impasse with the opposition unable to come to power under the charter and the military-appointed Senate unable to be trusted to support MPs who are not from the government's side to form a new administration.

The problems besetting the country are structural, with social, economic and political ramifications. To tackle them, all sides must find common ground and thrash out a solution together within the framework of the constitutional monarchy, observers say.

"We're trapped. The government is struggling with the economy in its current woeful state. Organising an election now under the current rules which are questioned by many is also unworkable," Mr Jatuporn said.

If nothing is done, the government can expect a new protest over bread and butter issues. "Nothing is more fearsome than people driven by hunger who rise up and will not listen to reason," he said, predicting such unrest would be more severe than any protests in the past.

Mr Jatuporn said the Covid-19 pandemic has forced a change of plan for the UDD which has decided to hold its remembrance of the 10th anniversary of the 2010 protest via social media channels.

He will address supporters with an update of the political situation and how political polarisation could be resolved in the future.

The UDD chairman added the search for truth after the protest has brought pain because the culprits have not been brought to justice.

He warned that if opponents did not let up on making the red shirts scapegoats for the violence, then many who feel cornered will have no choice but to come out fighting.

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