EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW : Abhisit govt not in actual control

jumlong_srimueng

A core leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), Chamlong Srimuang, gives his views on a new PAD-led political party, the attempt on the life of fellow PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul, and current politics, after the end of the violent red-shirt protests.

The PAD is to set up a new political party. What will “new politics” be like?

The new political party will not be a copycat of the now-defunct Palang Dharma Party (PDP) that I founded 21 years ago, but will be established on principles based on lessons learnt by the PDP. A grand PAD meeting on May 24 and 25 will discuss the new party’s set-up.

The new party, which has not been named, should command a majority of MP seats after the next general election, and will be a coalition member in the next government.

It will be useless if we cannot lead the coalition or form a government, because there will be nothing new to Thai politics.

PAD supporters nationwide are divided into two groups – those in favour of the new party and those who prefer that the PAD remains an independent advocacy group in politics. PAD representatives from each of the 76 provinces, and those living in the US, will decide at the grand meeting on the initial principles of the new party.

Palang Dharma actually practised the so-called “new politics” which has been heralded by the PAD, even back before 1988, when the party was established. In 1990, an American professor who did his doctoral thesis at London University, later wrote a book entitled: “Chamlong Srimuang and the New Politics”. I guess it was then that the new politics was first recognised.

The new party will be successful because of three factors that Palang Dharma did not have at that time: The Election Commission will watch out for and punish vote-buying, the support of PAD members across the country, and cable channel ASTV.

It is important that the new party lead the coalition in the next government, otherwise it will be no different to all the “old politics”, with its vote-buying, mud-slinging and money politics.

Who attempted to assassinate Sondhi Limthongkul, a core PAD leader?

I don’t know, but there two motives behind the murder attempt: PAD has tremendous support from the masses across the country and ASTV’s success as a mouthpiece for the PAD, which is known as the core of the anti-Thaksin Shinawatra movement.

Why was Sonthi the first target, as a leader of yellow-shirted people, instead of those in red shirts?

The people who gave the order didn’t care who they killed, first or later. But the current political turmoil dictated the order of kills. More importanly, there are known leaders of yellow-shirted people, who are even classsified as prime and secondary leaders, while there are no known leaders of red-shirted people. Should Thaksin be killed first? He stays abroad now.

Was there really an effort to lure yellow shirts and red shirts on to the street to fight one another?

Yes, but we did not walk into that trap. Somebody may use the ensuing violence as an excuse to oppress both yellow and red shirts, citing himself as a knight on a white horse. It’s the government’s duty to deal with lawless protesters, not the PAD’s.

As you have confirmed, there was an effort to stage a coup on April 12 and 13, a day before the red-shirted supporters’ busiest activities and street protests. Why was it aborted?

A coup was seen as essential to bring peace – and secondly, it may have been used as bargaining power in exchange for a law to pardon [Thaksin], to promulgate a so-called Reconciliation Act, or even to amend the Constitution. Yet, I don’t know why it was aborted.

What did the people behind the coup and the assassination attempt want?

They wanted power. They wanted to pardon some wrongdoers so they could escape serving prison terms and asset seizure. Or they wanted more and more power to become bigger in the country.

Does the ideology of some die-hard communists still exist? Was there any effort to revive it along with other tactics [used by the red shirts]?

Some die-hard communists who became Thaksin’s allies will still pursue their ideology despite the collapse of Soviet-era communism and the capitalism now adopted by China. But it is very difficult for them to achieve their goal. They came up this time with a clear stance against the monarchy – a policy they never stated clearly during their armed struggle then. And they are complaining about the PAD using their anti-monarchy policy as the main goal in our campaign. It’s clear to everyone now that PAD always tells the truth.

Was Thaksin part of the communists’ anti-monarchy movement?

Some of them – but we don’t know clearly who is who – may view Thaksin as their ally.

It was the government’s duty to uphold and enforce the lese majeste law, as the anti-monarchy doctrine has been spread out and is now widely accepted by people who are highly-respected lecturers, who are admired by their like-minded students.

The anti-monarchy doctrine was a threat to national security and the government must take responsibility for its inaction in dealing with the widespread violation of the lese majeste laws. I can’t tell whether the PAD would “take action” to tackle the problem, if the government proved incompetent or was inactive in dealing with the issue.

 What factors would prompt the PAD to launch a new round of rallies? Would the amendment of the Constitution and the pardon law be one of them?

I don’t know. We must wait and see.

The PAD staged rallies against two previous governments over plans to amend the Constitution and the pardon law. Why should it be different this time?

We cannot set up such preconditions. We need to analyse the situation because the time and circumstances have changed. The PAD doesn’t own the country and cannot tell the government what not to do.

Why do the same conditions not apply like they did during the two previous governments?

We do not know what articles in the Constitution are set to be amended. It’s wiser for us not to talk about it in advance.

Will the PAD rally to oust the government if it does nothing to deal with people who want to pursue an anti-monarchy stance?

It’s a threat the government has to deal with. It just cannot let these people get away.

How much time should the government be allowed [to act]?

Oh. We don’t own the government. We are not that big or powerful. We campaigned against the Samak and Somchai governments because they clearly acted as nominees or puppets of the Thaksin regime.

Even the Abhisit government is practising the old politics at a certain point – by kowtowing to certain groups of powerful people. For example, it has changed its stance on relocation of Thai Airways’ operations from Don Mueang to Suvarnabhumi Airport, and it eventually decided to draw back from a ban on alcohol sales during Songkran, under influence from liquor companies.

I don’t think the Abhisit government has the actual control, or the Asean Summit in Pattaya would have proceeded and there would have been no attack at the Interior Ministry.

By Chularat Saengpassa
The Nation
Published on April 27, 2009

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