Former cabinet minister and redshirt activist, Nattawut Saikuar, says Sunday’s rally in which car horns will blare during the national anthem calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha to exit the stage, will raise the flag of peace and not war. He criticised this week’s violent clashes between street activists and police observing that the more aggressive tactics employed by the protesters had left the wrong image and failed to convey any message but one of violence.
Redshirt leader and former cabinet minister Nattawut Saikuar has declared that his rally on Sunday next will raise the flag of peace and not violence in order to force Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha to resign from office. He also indirectly criticised the more militant protests seen on the streets this week saying they had failed to convey the right message at this time of emergency and were helping the government.
A key redshirt leader who plans to lead a large car rally in Bangkok on Sunday 15th August calling for the resignation of the prime minister, on Friday, pleaded with the activists behind this week’s ongoing violent clashes with police, to consider their position.
He suggested that their aggressive actions were playing into the government’s hands at this time.
It comes as Thailand reported another day of record infections with 23,418 new cases and 184 deaths while the world’s media reported police again clashing violently with protesters firing rubber bullets and deploying tear gas.
PM reported to be looking at easing COVID-19 measures on Monday at the request of trade groups
The rising levels of COVID-19 together with a deteriorating economic situation and the hardship caused by the lockdown have raised public anxiety throughout the kingdom with confidence at an all-time low.
On Friday, it was reported that Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha would hold a crucial meeting on Monday to review a possible easing of some of the economic restrictions following representations from trade groups and business leaders.
These are business activities such as banking, providing access and repairs to electrical appliances, miscellaneous retail outlets and businesses operating in the IT sector whose continued closure is causing severe hardship for the population.
Prayut’s home has been under siege this week from protesters who repeatedly clashed with police
Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha is expecting to conduct the meeting from his home at the 1st Infantry Regiment compound on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road which is currently under siege, day by day, from protests which have turned distinctly ugly this week leading to police injuries and one protester having his fingers blown off after a device exploded prematurely before he hurled it at police lines.
It was later revealed that the activist had been infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Angry and violent protests have repeatedly alienated public support for moves to oust the government
Many observers feel the more militant and aggressive approach by the younger protesters is alienating the broader public from efforts to hold the government accountable for its performance in the course of the virus emergency.
A shocking poll by the widely followed Thai newspaper, Thai Rath, in early July, found that only 1.8% of the public had confidence in General Prayut’s government.
After this, the situation continued to deteriorate despite reports of a crack government team within Government House coordinated by Palang Pracharat Party Secretary-general, Thamanat Prompow, whose goal is to regain the initiative in the face of a rising virus wave and economic woes.
Thailand on track for another year of GDP contraction
The country is now on track for another year of GDP contraction.
A joint committee of the Bankers’ Association, the Federation of Thai Industries and the Chamber of Commerce has just forecast the Thai economy to contract by 1.5% in 2021.
The militancy of the student street protests has already, prior to this, caused public support and enthusiasm for a movement targeting the government to wane on several occasions over the last year.
Young protesters on the streets are more left-wing
The agenda of the young activists on the streets confronting police is also more left-wing and radical than the broader masses representing, to some extent, a generational shift which is reflected in parliament by the Pheu Thai Party closely aligned with ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Move Forward Party, the successor to the disbanded Future Forward Party which represents a younger, more educated and more radical segment of the population which seeks more profound social and political change in Thailand.
In December last, one of the groups aligned to a broad coalition of student and activist groups, RT or Restart Thailand, produced a new logo or brand change which incorporated the hammer and sickle on red, an image long associated with communism.
Former red shirt leader and cabinet member under Yingluck Shinawatra to lead a car rally on Sunday
On Friday, just hours before violent protests again broke out in the city near Victory Monument and later in the Ding Daeng area, 46-year-old Mr Nattawut Saikuar, a redshirt activist, former cabinet minister and key leader of the anti-government protests from 2006 to 2010 who was only at the end of June released from prison on charges relating to a violent riot in 2007, gave a press conference.
He made his position clear to the younger generation fighting police on the streets with catapults and ping pong bombs.
Mr Nattawut served as the junior minister in both the Agriculture Ministry and the Commerce Ministry in the government of Yingluck Shinawatra from 2012 until it was ousted in the coup in May 2014 led by the current Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha.
‘Please think it through thoroughly,’ he urged them. ‘I think you don’t want to see the armed forces coming out. As for those in power, I am not so sure. You’d better watch your game carefully.’
Sunday’s rally at three points in the capital to kick off at 3 pm finishing after 6 pm with the national anthem
Mr Nattawut is to lead a large rally on Sunday the 15th of August whose key demand is the resignation of General Prayut Chan ocha over his alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.
The protest will start at 3 pm and will have three gathering points including Democracy Monument, Ratchaprasong Intersection and Lat Phrao intersection which will be the destination of a march from Ayutthaya led by well-known activist Sombat Bunngamanong.
Mr Sombat is a more radical 53-year-old left-wing redshirt activist and social worker known for his independence of thought.
Referred to affectionately by his nickname, ‘Mouse’, he has also found himself, in the past, jailed for his political activities.
Commitment to a peaceful rally emphasised strongly
Mr Nattawut has made it clear that his firm objective is that next Sunday’s rally must go off peacefully.
On Friday, he repeatedly underlined the point.
He declared the rally would avoid sensitive buildings such as Government House, the Prime Minister’s residence or the royal palaces which may draw them into conflict with police or the military.
The protest leader also offered to liaise with police authorities to ensure that the event passed off peacefully although the gathering is illegal under the current Emergency Decree with a recent commitment from the Royal Thai Police to enforce its terms more robustly.
On Wednesday, a request by police to the armed forces was outlined by Metropolitan Police Bureau Chief, Lieutenant General Pakkapong Pongpetra.
This may see the army take up defensive positions concerning key buildings in the capital linked with the military and the royal palaces.
Horns to be blared during the singing of the national anthem calling for PM Prayut Chan ocha to resign
The redshirt leader and former MP who hails from Nakhon Si Thammarat told the online press conference on Friday that the protest on Sunday would end sharply after the national anthem is played at 6 pm, to allow people to make their way safely home and to avoid issues with the 9 pm curfew.
He said that cars and motorbikes taking part in the rally should blare their horns throughout the national anthem to signal their support for the country but also their plaintive calls for Prime Minister Prayut to resign.
In the course of the press conference, Mr Nattawut said the student protesters and activists, as they engaged in violence this week, had failed to make their message clear and instead people were left with an image of running violence and destruction.
He explained that people supporting him will be raising the flag of peace and not the flag of war.
He again stressed his determination to try to ensure that there is no additional violence on the streets at this time.