Sunday, November 05, 2006

Now, it’s no to the coup

Thai Takes

Wear black t-shirt
Turn on your main light vehicle
Place black bow on your vehicle
Wear black wristband

That was the message from an ominous 3.26-minute video clip posted on Using the Internet, an unknown group, dCode, urged Thais to defy martial law and stage an anti-coup d’etat rally on Nov 1 at Sanam Luang ground in Bangkok.

At about 11am, hours before the scheduled rally in his office at Bangkok’s prestigious Chulalongkorn University, Giles Ji Ungpakorn put on a black t-shirt. His choice of t-shirt colour, however, was unrelated to the protest that he described as “very strange”.

He was suspicious of the characters behind dCode.

“One of the organisers gave flowers to the military junta when the coup took place,” said the 53-year-old Marxist, “and now he is against the coup.”

“Nowadays, I tend to wear black as I’m in mourning for democracy,” explained the lecturer whose office has a flag of his favourite Malaysian political party, the yet-to-be-registered Parti Sosialis Malaysia, hung on the wall.

Three days after the Sept 19 coup, Giles wore a black t-shirt and held a “No to Thaksin. No to the coup” poster at Siam Paragon, an upscale mall in Bangkok. He was part of the first organisation, 19 September Network against Coup d’Etat, to publicly condemn the coup makers.

In an opinion piece in The Nation on Sept 26, Giles wrote: “The one thing that I have learnt over the years, with encouragement from my father and mother, was never to trust a military dictatorship. A coup is not ‘reform’. Dictatorship is not ‘democracy’. The military cannot be trusted. Democracy has taken a serious step backwards.”

The dissenting voice of the son of Puey Ungpakorn – the rector of Bangkok’s Thammasat University during the brutal massacre of student protestors on its campus on Oct 6, 1976 – was the few heard during the early days of the Council for National Security’s military rule.

Five weeks after the coup, however, the voice of dissent against CNS was getting louder and louder.

Some people are beginning to see that the military have lied consistently, observed Giles.

“The military said they would step back after two weeks and yet they are still in the saddle. The military said they would appoint a civilian government and yet they appointed an army man (General Surayud Chulanont) as prime minister,” he said.

More and more people are showing their dissatisfaction with the military, he added.

One dissatisfied voice was that of Thammasat University lecturer Somyos Chuathai, who is a legal expert.

On Nov 2, The Nation reported that Somyos dismissed as unbelievable the CNS leaders’ claim not to perpetuate their power.

“All coup-makers have said they would not stage a coup, and they did. They all said they would not become prime minister – and later they did,” he said in an interview with the Thai Journalists Association.

“After coup-makers tear up the constitution, they normally set up a nominee party to carry on their power. Now that the CNS has overthrown the Thaksin government, it may have to do the same thing,” Somyos said.

“After seizing power this time, this vicious circle is inevitable. I do not believe that after the election, the CNS will step down easily because it has made many enemies.”

Calls for the CNS to step down were heard during the Nov 1 protest, which was one of the largest since the military banned political assemblies. It drew about 200 protestors – dressed in black and wearing black plastic wristbands – who demanded the end of martial law and a general election within two months.

Giles expected the people to organise more protests and social forums to pressure for the immediate return of democracy to Thailand.

But what could people power do as the military had the guns?

“Well, they haven’t shot us yet. And Thai history has shown that when the military shot demonstrators on two occasions (1973 and 1992), they lost (power),” he said.

Prime Minister Surayud should know.

In 1992, he was a commander during the bloody Black May where the military fired at pro-democracy protestors who were demanding for coup-maker General Suchinda Krapyoon to step down as prime minister.

(Published in The Star on Nov 5, 2006)