After Thaksin Shinawatra’s announcement of his political comeback, The Nation’s Somroutai Sapsomboon talks to – Suriyasai Katasila, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, and Jatuporn Promphan, the party list MP of the People Power Party – over how they see the political conflict playing out.
Here are their face-off comments.
1. How do you read the political situation after this? The political conflict will deepen and become more complicated. It will follow the rules and breach the rules at the same time. The violence will spread out to all parts. It will develop from a conflict of ideas… to a conflict of society without violence… to conflict and the use of force and weapons… until it becomes a fact of life.
At this point, both sides are ready to use force. Many people fear a civil war might break out. It all depends on Thaksin Shinawatra alone. Whether he wants war or peace.
If Thaksin wants peace, he will have to make a sacrifice. It’s unfortunate for Thai society that the former leader won’t make any sacrifices.
The method of Thaksin’s sacrifice is that he must return home to honour the verdict against him. He must go to jail to face a two-year sentence. That is not too long. Nelson Mandela stayed in jail for 25 years and came out to fight for victory.
Thaksin likes to claim he is Nelson Mandela but he does not want to serve jail. If he serves jail, he will gain more than lose.
Jatuporn : Insofar as the society does not have justice or fairness, there can’t be peace. If there is oppression, there is resistance. After the coup in September 2006, Thaksin Shinawatra has been unfairly treated until now he has no way out. He has been pushed until he has hit the corner, so he has to fight back by declaring that he will return to politics.
2. Are you ready to confront or clash with your opponents? Do you want to avoid the violence?
Suriyasai : Our position is clear. We don’t want violence of any kind. We have been rallying on civil disobedience. You can see that in the several incidents where we have backed off to avoid confrontation or clashes. We have held back rallies to avoid potential clashes with the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship.
Our target is Thaksin Shinawatra, not the DAAD. But now the PAD is ready to move into the confrontational phase, if necessary. We do not want violence. It is something we do not want to see. It is not going to be a war of our making.
We’ll probably be in a situation where we need to defend ourselves. If violence were to happen, it will happen around Government House because we are not going to move elsewhere.
I believe violence can take place from now on, because the court will hand down the verdict in the party dissolution case next month. They would like to put pressure on the judiciary.
Jatuporn: Our position is that we would like to safeguard democratic principles. We would like to remove all adverse consequences that have arisen from the military coup. We will not be the defendants any more. We can’t wait for the death sentence.
We have to fight back to restore justice. So far we have been unfairly treated. We won’t bow again. If we can’t live in peace or have justice, then we should not have peace . We will fight by every means to bring out justice in this country.
3. Do you want the military to come out and stage a coup? Before, we hoped the judiciary review would be enough to handle the political problem. But it has turned out that judiciary review is not enough. Thaksin does not have any respect for the judiciary. We had hoped to rely on the military. Is that wrong?
You may say that it is not right, but it is not totally wrong either. Now we don’t know whom to turn to. We can’t rely on the government because you can see they have done nothing about the violent incident on Oct 7.
The army should have done something to restore order. Actually, we want the military to join hands with the public in creating new politics. However, we know that is difficult because the armed forces’ leadership has different views about this matter.
So what we expect from the military now is to prevent violence – or at least minimise any violence that could take place.
Jatuporn: If there is another coup, our red shirt supporters will come out to fight against the military. Upon seeing the military or the tanks, the red shirt fights, though emptyhanded, [they] will surround them. The dictators can never win over the people.
There will be uprising throughout the country against the coup. Today we have enough force and supporters.
4. What is the worst case scenario?
Suriyasai : We might see a civil war. We would like Thai people to help stem the civil war. We can do this by booting out the government. The longer the government stays, Thaksin will use his power through it. The new government must not serve as a nominee for Thaksin.
Jatuporn: I believe the chance will be slim for both sides to clash;[but] the violence will take place in the event of a military coup. There will be supporters and opponents of the coup and they will go against each other.
Now the majority voice of the country is coming out to claim their majority right, according to the principles of democracy.