Jatuporn mobilises to challenge Prayut
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Jatuporn mobilises to challenge Prayut

Plans Sunday 'forum' at Santiporn Park

Jatuporn Prompan
Jatuporn Prompan

A potential faction aiming to topple Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has emerged with veteran political activist Jatuporn Prompan at the forefront -- but political analysts have expressed their doubts about its power.

The chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) is urging the public to attend a political forum this Sunday at Santiporn Park on Ratchadamnoen Klang Avenue.

According to Mr Jatuporn, the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims and they hope to kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut's prolonged stay in power.

The red-shirt leader criticised Gen Prayut for failing to push for a charter rewrite, among other things, and said that the prime minister did not deserve to stay on.

Stithorn Thananithichote, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok's Institute (KPI), is sceptical about Mr Jatuporn's ability to still appeal to the crowds as he did in 2010, when he rallied red-shirt supporters to rise up against the Abhisit government.

Mr Stithorn said the youth-led protest movement remained a formidable force but the group needed to be "reorganised".

"The youth-led movement needs changes and should avoid radicals like Penguin and other leaders, who are being detained," he said.

He added that Mr Jatuporn's move was an attempt to reunite political activists who took part in the 1992 Black May uprising against dictatorship but have since gone their separate ways. Some have joined the red shirts while others are allied with the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

"So when he concluded Gen Prayut no longer supported the charter rewrite, he tried to gather those who were opposed to the government to call for Gen Prayut's ousting," said Mr Stithorn. "Given his role and clout now, the best he can do is join [the anti-government movement], not lead it. Gen Prayut is good at retaining power and it will not be easy to challenge him."

However, he said, if Mr Jatuporn succeeded, he would keep the royal institution out of the current political conflict.

Mr Jatuporn said Sunday's event was not a mass mobilisation.

"I don't know how many people will turn up, but those who show up will show up as individuals as myself," he said. "I hope the red shirts, PAD and PDRC who agree with the campaign will join and announce their stance before we turn [the forum] into a demonstration to oust Gen Prayut."

Mr Jatuporn said Gen Prayut did not deserve to remain prime minister, as he had repeatedly failed to honour his promises. "Not only Gen Prayut has overstayed his welcome and failed to bring about reforms in several areas, but he isn't pushing enough for charter amendments," he said.

With the military-appointed Senate, Gen Prayut has a strong chance of returning to power when the next general election comes around, said Mr Jatuporn.

Gen Prayut has been in power for seven years -- five as NCPO chief and two as the head of an elected government under the 2017 coup-sponsored charter.

Nattawut Saikuar, another key UDD leader, said he had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn and the issue had never been brought up in their talks.

Mr Nattawut has just completed a jail sentence of two years and eight months for leading a violent red-shirt protest more than a decade ago outside the residence of late Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda.

He was released on parole in December after receiving a reduced sentence but was required to wear a tracking device until Monday.

A highly placed source in the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) on Tuesday cast doubts about the move against Gen Prayut, saying it was unlikely to pick up steam as core leaders of the youth movement were busy fighting criminal charges.

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