Car protest floods the streets, denouncing 2006 coup and demanding PM’s resignation

On Sunday 19 September, people gathered at Asok intersection to join the Car Mob protest organized by Nattawut Saikuar and Sombat Boonngamanong, leading figures in the red shirt movement.

A flag states, #DrivingoffPrayut.

As well as calling for the PM's resignation, the event was also held on the 15th anniversary of the coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra administration.

The organizers declared “driving cars into tanks” as the protest theme to commemorate the action of Nuamthong Praiwan, who crashed his taxi into a military tank in opposition to the 2006 coup.

Nattawut arrived at the protest at 14.30 before cosplaying himself as a taxi driver and driving a taxi into a huge model tank, marking the start of the rally to the Democracy Monument.

Nattwut rams a taxi into a model tank.

“We will show all the authoritarians and the network of influence behind the scenes that no matter how great you are, the people’s hearts are greater. No matter how big the tank you use to seize power, it cannot compare to the taxi driven by Nuamthong Praiwan,” said Nattawut.

Nattawut said Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has been in power for half of the 15 years since the 2006 coup and the country’s economy, society and politics have gone backward since then. Gen Prayut should reconsider his position and to call it quits before the people’s struggle removes him.

He also said that the coups in 2006 and 2014 both contributed to the people’s despair.

“There is no Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest. There is no dictator that robs the rich to help the poor. There are only dictators like those in this country who rob the poor to satisfy the rich, pushing misfortune onto the poor to make them poorer.

“The 3 ‘P’ generals [Prayut, Prawit and Anupong] were in the army and had important roles in the 2006 coup. After that, Anupong Paochinda became the Army Chief, and then Gen Prayut, conspiring with Suthep Thaugsuban to seize power and stay in power until the 2017 constitution, monopolizing power to himself.”

Protesters and the covered Democracy Monument.

Protesters arrived at the destination at the Democracy Monument at 16.30. They covered the monument with black cloth, symbolizing the darkness shrouding the Kingdom’s politics. They then concluded the protest at 17.30 when some protesters headed to Din Daeng and Nang Loeng intersections to stage separate protests.

Remembering the 2006 coup

On 19 September 2006, Gen Sonthi Boonyaratglin, then Army Commander, staged a military coup d’état to topple then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, alleging that Thaksin was allegedly involved in corruption and nepotism, interfered in independent state agencies and had insulted the King. The coup also marked a rise in the number of cases under Section 112 or the lèse majesté law. 

As the car rally proceeded, an online public panel was organized where guest speakers took turns to give speeches about the 2006 coup and the chronic damage it caused to Thailand's situation.

Panellist Russ Jalichandra, former Thai ambassador to Mozambique and Kazakhstan and owner of the Facebook page “The Alternative Ambassador,” described Thailand’s international reputation before the 2006 coup as “attractive”. The Department of Protocol where he worked at that time was very busy as foreign guests often visited Thailand.

Russ Jalichandra

This popularity was turned on its head after the 2006 coup, when the department workload was so little it looked like he was fired. 

Russ said the international community expressed its disagreement with the coup. The recent protests in the country may not have attracted much attention as Thailand had fallen off international community’s radar. 

He still wanted the country to return to democracy no matter how long it takes. But eventually, the people will win.

Panussaya ‘Rung’ Sitthijirawattanakul, a student activist from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, said she was only 8 when the 2006 coup was staged. At that time, politics was not a topic of conversation in her family.

Panussaya ‘Rung’ Sitthijirawattanakul

She started to question the country’s situation after the 2014 coup when she engaged with activism at Thammasat University. She felt that the two coups are acts of the elite snatching power from the people. She underlined the demands for the PM’s resignation, creating a people’s constitution and reform of the monarchy in order to achieve true reform that will put an end to coups in Thailand.

Yod (Pseudonym), 60, came to sell books at the destination of the Car Mob protest at the Democracy Monument. He had experienced the ebb and flow of the Kingdom’s politics and economics including the 2006 coup.

Yod said he moved his book selling from state libraries to the street due to worsening economics and declining library budgets. He finds the country’s development is stuck in a vicious cycle as if some kind of curse has befallen it.

“Our country develops only in material things but the consciences of the leaders do not develop. In this age, the word ‘governance’ according to the government means ‘don’t scrutinize us.’ This is hideous. Public figures must be open to scrutiny,” said Yod.

The old bookseller wanted the country to be democratized where all have the chance to access good economic and educational opportunities.

Pom (Pseudonym), a protester, said the 2006 coup was the start of the economic downfall. And when the economy was about to grow, 2014 came to put a final nail in the coffin.

“The economy was in a bad way before Covid. ... Many people committed suicide. My sister made garments for Bobae [one of Bangkok’s major garment markets]. Bobae is a cheap market, a grassroot market, but she couldn’t sell even there. Now she has closed the factory. 

“We must remove all those parasites so that our country will prosper,” said Pom.

Source: 
prachatai.com/journal/2021/09/95062

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