Pro-election protesters avoid clash with opponents

On Saturday 19th January 2019, pro-election protesters held demonstrations at Thammasat University and Khok Wua intersection; the demonstration sites were changed to avoid clashes with pro-delay protesters.

Protesters at Thammasat University, Thaprachan
Source: Prachatai

Protest at Khok Wua

Anurak ‘Ford’ Jentawanich, a leading member of the Red Path Group, and Ekkachai Hongkangwan, a political activist, initially planned to hold a protest at the Democracy Monument, but changed the venue to Khok Wua intersection to avoid clashes with pro-delay protesters.

He informed Chanasongkram Police Station and broadcast on Facebook Live at 14.00 that he had changed the venue because he was afraid of clashes between the two groups. The pro-delay protesters planned to hold a protest at the same place after their opponents had already announced their decision.

On Facebook Live, Anurak said that the announcement from the pro-delay protesters was not unexpected. It is normal for that group to spread fake news to cause confusion among pro-election protesters.

At 15.00, the People Calling for Election group began its protest in front of the 14 October Monument by showing anti-dictatorship signs in opposition to the election delay, and gave out stickers to people around the area.

Ekkachai Hongkangwan invited the participants to dance. The popular Thai songs  ‘Prathet Ku Mi’ Rap Against DictatorshipKok Kok Kok, and Bo Rak Si Dam were played at the protest site. Then the protesters shouted ‘Prayut get out’ and ‘No election delay’.

Protest at Thammasat University Tha Pra Chan

At 15.27, around 50 protesters started gathering in front of the main auditorium of Thammasat University, Tha Pra Chan Campus. The police entered the site for a security check. Angkhana Neelapaijit, a member of National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, also joined the protest.

Protesters at Thammasat University, Tha Pra Chan Campus
Source: Prachatai

In several interviews at the protest site, the leaders said that the pro-election campaign announced the protest at Democracy Monument before the pro-delay campaign, reflecting the intention of their opponents to clash with them and open a way for violence.

At 16.00, protesters from different provinces increased the size to 150-200. Anon Numpha, a protest leader, came to the venue in white clothes as a symbol of nonviolence. The protesters showed signs saying “Liar, liar, liar, you postponed the election 5 times.”

The People Calling for Election campaign, led by Sirawith ‘Ja New’ Serithiwat and Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, demanded that government announce the election decree before 24 January. Otherwise, they will hold another protest across the country on 26 January 2019. "The government has been seriously incompetent because they cannot deliver an election on 24 February," said Sirawith. 

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that the election will be on 24 March 2019, but the protesters insisted that the word of the military government is not credible unless there is a royal decree published in the government gazette.  

The protest proceeded according to the schedule, including singing the song Panithan Haeng Serichon (Will of Liberty), asking protesters to write a message to the people in power on a long white cloth, reading a poem, and a candlelight vigil. The protest ended at 18.46.

Response from the pro-delay group

At the Democracy Monument, Jaturon Boonbenjarat and Phansuwan Na Kaew, leaders of Unite Before Election, told a reporter that they had no intention of staging violence. “If they had not moved, the media may have seen us walking towards them to talk. Then, everyone would go home and there would be no more protests,” Jaturon said.

Pro-delay Protesters
Source: Thapanee Ietsrichai

Phansuwan, a student leader of the PDRC, read 3 points from their statement. First, the movement must end their demonstrations to avoid consequences that may have an impact on the election and especially the coronation. Second, all people involved must be patient, waiting to join the great coronation. Third, everybody should meet and unite before the election and monitor the upcoming election to be fair and transparent. 

“We can wait according to the 150-day timeframe and do not want any groups – whether the People Calling for Election group or others – to create conditions for disorder to occur in the country. This is an auspicious year. We want all parties to become one and remain calm and wait just for a short time because today we are still within the 150-day timeframe of the Constitution. Don't cross the bridge until you come to it,” said Phansuwan.

Jaturon Boonbenjarat and Phansuwan Na Kaew were among the leaders of the PDRC, a movement that created political deadlock during the Yingluck Shinawatra government which eventually led to the military coup in 2014.

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