Protest leaders rallying outside Bangkok Remand Prison in Thailand’s capital are warning that they have another ‘surprise’ for the government and that failure by the Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha to resign will lead to an escalation in protest activity. The government leader, on Saturday night, made his position clear, he will stay in power.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha while attending a Buddhist ceremony in Bangkok, confirmed that he was not stepping down as Prime Minister despite an ultimatum by protesters issued on Wednesday. However, the PM indicated that he was interested in pursuing national reconciliation with all groups in the kingdom. It comes as a key protest leader and human rights lawyer, Anon Nampa, despite being granted bail last week in Chiang Mai, has declined to leave prison citing personal safety fears.
The news of the Prime Minister’s response to the protesters comes as there are fears that a proposed emergency session of parliament in Thailand on Monday and Tuesday next is not going to bring any breakthrough.
Saturday’s deadline by protesters expired at 10 pm but the premier’s response came earlier.
Both sides of the current political divide are looking like they are increasingly squaring off with the ruling political party Palang Pracharat now resolving to mobilise its supporters and constituents in defence of the monarchy and the government of Prayut Chan ocha, despite the massive protests that took place in Bangkok over the last week and the rescinding of the state of severe emergency in the capital on Tuesday last.
The student-led protest movement had been gathering since Friday outside the Bangkok Remand Prison in the Chatuchak area of the city to reiterate their demands calling for the resignation of Thailand’s prime minister ahead of the deadline set by protesters.
On Saturday afternoon, one protest leader, Jatupat Boonpatararaksa or Pai Dao Din, promised a severe escalation of the mass protests if their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha is not heeded.
The protest leader who has only released on bail himself, on Friday evening, has promised the government a ‘surprise’ move by the movement in response.
Leader emphasised that protest activity has been peaceful to date without invading government offices
Mr Jatupat said that protests to date had been peaceful and had not invaded government offices while respectfully raising their demands to the authorities.
On Wednesday night, large protests on the streets pushed back police lines in Bangkok to present a letter to the Metropolitan Police Chief Lieutenant Phukphong Phongpetra which, it is understood, was passed on to the prime minister’s deputy secretary for political affairs later that evening.
The Prime Minister, General Prayut, on Wednesday night, had asked the protesters to stand down and let parliament resolve the crisis.
The PM promised to rescind the state of severe emergency which he declared in central Bangkok on Thursday 15th October last.
He followed through on this on Thursday at noon when the measure was formally revoked.
Special parliamentary session to take place on October 26th and 27th as both sides mobilise
Since then, a special parliamentary session with cabinet approval has been called for on October 26th and 27th.
However, there are fading hopes in relation to the initiative among those hoping to see reconciliation or compromise between the two sides.
This has coincided with the emergence of Yellow Shirt rallies nationwide in support of the monarchy and moves by the ruling Palang Pracharat Party to mobilise its followers and constituents in a show of opposition to the student-led movement.
Meanwhile, despite a flurry of released protesters during the week, on bail granted by the Criminal Court and the Appeals court, the pivotal leaders of the protest activity since July were still behind bars at the end of the week.
Protest leader Anon Nampa refused to leave prison in Chiang Mai citing fears for his own safety
Curiously, one of the key leaders, Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who was arrested on Thursday the 15th in the crackdown that later petered out and who was taken by helicopter to face charges in Chiang Mai, refused his freedom from prison there on Friday citing fears for his personal security and the probability that he would be rearrested on new charges.
Mr Nampa is facing multiple counts in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai under Section 116 of the Thai Criminal Code for inciting unrest and sedition.
In the meantime, the other key leaders are being held at Bangkok Remand Prison. They include Parit Chiwarat or the ‘Penguin’ as well as Panupong Jadnok alias Mike Rayong.
Panusaya’Rung’ Sithijirawattanakul is being held in the adjacent Central Women’s Correctional Institution. All were refused bail last week by both the Criminal Court in Bangkok and the Appeals Court.
Courts refuse bail to top protest leaders fearing they will incite further unrest and damage to property as well as encouraging lawlessness
The Appeals Court cited the danger that the protest leaders may pose to the public and to property if released and allowed to defy the law.
The court also cited the fear that they may decide to flee given the serious nature and the number of charges that these protest leaders now face.
Section 116 allows for a term of imprisonment of up to seven years and many of the protest leaders are facing multiple charges which could lead to consecutive terms.
The court also noted that the accused parties are encouraging other protesters not to fear the law.
Ms Panusaya being held in crowded jail conditions
On Friday, a former human rights commissioner in Thailand, Angkhana Neelapaijit, expressed concern at the conditions in which Ms Panusaya was being held in prison.
The activist said that the young woman had had her hair cut, dyed black and was wearing prison garbs including a face mask and visor. She told reporters that she is sharing a cell with 48 other female inmates at the corrections department facility.
Ms Angkhana criticised management at the prison for refusing to allow the young woman to meet her mother although she was allowed access to legal representatives.
She questioned, whether, as an unconvicted prisoner, the regime was appropriate.
Former human rights commissioner fears the government is not sincere about using parliament
Ms Angkhana warned that she had little hope for the parliamentary session due to be held next week.
‘It is unfortunate that Parliament will not be a place to deal with political problems anymore,’ Ms Angkhana declared after she claimed sight of documents presented to Chuan Leekpai, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and President of the Parliament.
She said these documents suggested that the government’s agenda during the session was to discuss the dangers posed by the protest rallies during the Covid 19 emergency, the waylaying of Her Majesty the Queen’s motorcade on October 14th and the reasons why police used force on Friday, October 16th to disperse protesters in central Bangkok.
Ms Angkhana said that she fears that the government was attempting to blame the protests on some external force and would consequently fail to engage with the protesters and their demands in a sincere and constructive manner.
Majority of Thai people oppose reform of the monarchy says former governing party spokeswoman
On Saturday, Ms Thipa Nansiri Chana, a former spokesperson for the ruling Palang Pracharat Party told the media that a Super Poll opinion survey conducted nationwide in Thailand has shown that the majority of the public still support the retention of incumbent Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha.
The same organisation produced a poll in July which showed over 80% of the Thai public had scant trust in all political parties.
Ms Thipa called on the student-led protest movement to withdraw their controversial calls for reform of the monarchy which, she said, was resolutely opposed by an overwhelming majority of Thai people.
Unknown forces plotting against the government of General Prayut Chan ocha fearing an economic recovery after his Covid-19 success
She attributed the rise in protests activities since July to fears by parties unknown, that Thailand, through the leadership of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha, would manage soon to overcome the economic fallout and crisis that has ensued after successfully defending itself against the Covid-19 virus, a scenario which would see support for the government surge.
Ms Thipa said that this was being recognised now by more people in Thailand who understood that this would prevent those parties regaining power in the kingdom and that this is why they are instigating the current protests and are so determined to remove the PM.
She praised General Prayut for his outstanding work in controlling the virus in Thailand and his latest efforts to revive the economy.