A public seminar to commemorate the 2006 coup was abruptly ended after the audience was outraged by a politician from the Democrat Party.
On 18 September 2016, a public seminar titled “Thai Society: 10 Years Without Progress” was cut short after Tankhun Jitt-itsara, a Democrat Party politician, argued in support of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) movement that pushed for the 2014 coup.
Rangsiman Rome, a New Democracy Movement (NDM) activist and event organiser, then addressed the audience to argue they should tolerate different political ideas since the military regime benefits from political hatred. He promised to host similar events again but hoped the audience would be more open-minded next time.
“It’s sad that we could not continue the discussion until the event’s finished. I’m not sure that is it still possible for Thai people to talk with those who think differently. What if it’s impossible? Who will benefit the most from this impossibility? ... I insist that we have to listen to our opposition. If we don’t, those who will benefit the most are the military. And that’s unacceptable for me,” said Rangsiman.
Tankhun had been invited to the event as a guest speaker. When he began to speak, members of the audience, most of whom were anti-junta, cursed and swore at him. The moderator Sombat Boonngamanong, a pro-democracy activist from the Red Sunday group, attempted to calm down the audience in order to continue the discussion.
The talk continued for some 20 minutes before Sombat asked Tankhun about his reasons for joining the PDRC movement. He replied that the he had wanted to oust the Yingluck Shinawatra government due to its controversial 2013 Amnesty Bill. His answer triggered outrage from the audience.
“Both Suthep and Abhisit who were alleged [to be responsible for the 2010 political crackdown] were subjected to the justice system. Meanwhile, Yingluck and Thaksin tried to issue an amnesty for everyone … Is this fair? Is it democracy?” Tankhun asked.
The audiences started yelling at Tankhun until the event organisers decided to bring the event to an abrupt end. NDM had hosted the event at Thammasat University to commemorate the 2006 coup.