THE People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has arrived at a crucial crossroads: Should it turn into a political party – or should it continue to expand its influence as one of the country’s leading pressure groups
The PAD’s five core leaders aren’t exactly split right down the middle on the issue. But it’s a dilemma of crucial proportions.
On the one hand, whatever the outcome of the treacherous process of arriving at a consensus, the PAD could face a serious rupture. But then, without a clear direction for the future, the yellow shirts could begin to lose political clout in the face of challenges posed by new, unidentified and complex political forces.
The PAD plans to hold a brainstorming session from May 24-25 to thrash out its do-or-die strategy. Each of the 76 provinces will be represented by ten PAD members. With a strong panel from headquarters numbering 100 or so personnel, the general assembly of about 1,000 activists will plot the grouping’s critical next step.
The PAD’s chief coordinator, Suriyasai Katasila, in a rare admission, said the proposed formation of a yellow-shirt political party had divided the movement.
I have been asked whether we have finally decided to pursue political power instead of serving as a pressure group to educate and instigate for change in Thailand,” he told a huge yellow-shirt crowd at last Saturday’s “political concert” held in the southern commercial city of Hat Yai.
“I have also been told we won’t be able to achieve our aim of new politics unless we turn ourselves into a political party to run in the election, so that we can have a decisive say in the national political process,” he added.
Others have told Suriyasai that the PAD should devote less time and energy to Thaksin – and should instead concentrate on rebuilding the nation under their formula of “new politics”.
That issue, too, represents the other dilemma facing the PAD: Is the movement all about getting rid of the former premier and the so-called “Thaksin regime?” Can the PAD really step away from what has been described as its obsession with Thaksin?
Some PAD leaders want to turn the group into a political party to raise the bar on its struggle to change the country’s political structure. Public rallies and civil disobedience are only the first steps towards achieving that goal.
But even within the ranks of the PAD’s leadership, there is a deep suspicion about being tainted with “political ambition”. To keep the people’s movement pure and virtuous, they argue, the PAD must remain a pressure group that keeps a clear and proper distance from electoral politics.
There is also the “third way” out of this Catch-22 situation. Some senior PAD members have floated the idea of a compromise: Let the main river flow into two branches, one morphing into a political party with the other maintaining the status of a popular movement.
That may sound like a typical happy medium. But the inherent danger is that such a halfway solution is no solution at all. In fact, there is a serious risk, if that proposal was to be taken up, that both the PAD party and the PAD pressure group would become equally wobbly and ineffectual and end up losing everything that represented the movement’s original recipe of success.
When all is said and done, however, the final decision will rest with the five PAD leaders. They can’t afford to split up and move the PAD in two different directions.
They even have a name for the new party: Prachabhiwat (“People’s Reform”). But despite all the hoopla about the need to institutionalise the popular movement, my own analysis comes down to this:
The new party is too risky. The “middle way” is too divisive. The outcome of the brainstorming session will most likely end up with the “relaunching” of the PAD as a more pragmatic, conventional and result-oriented organisation.It’s what you may call the PAD Part II, Chapter One.
Yellow Shirts can no longer stand at the sidelines
Another turning point in Thai politics will take place on May 24-25 when the Yellow Shirted movement convene to decide its future. Their members, led by a second generation such as Suriyasai Katasila or Somkiat Pongpaiboon, will convene at the Impact Muang Thong Thani to discuss the course of political action they will embrace.
Should they remain idle on the sidelines while the Red Shirted protecters continue to pound the Abhisit government? Should they reactive their Yellow Shirted movement again to fight for New Politics? Should they form a political party under the name of Thien Haeng Dharmma (Candle of Dharmma) to achieve this purpose of New Politics? What would be the format of their political fights?…
-What’s going to be their future? They look ready to go into the final battle against the Reds….
-Sondhi is keeping an eye on his Yellow Shirts from abroad. So is Thaksin, who is now trotting the world on his private jet and plotting a strategy for the Reds….
-The Reds are in the process of building up the arms struggle capability for the “people’s revolution”…
-Jack in the box
Inside the Yellow Shirted camp, their members are waiting for Pol Gen Thanee Somboonsap, who is in charge of the assassination case on Sondhi’s life, to produce the result. Thanee is under trememdous pressure to kill the case. But he is known to be a policeman of integrity. We should know the result soon….
PAD at crossroads
Will they or won’t they? The People’s Alliance for Democracy is set to make its most important decision since the Suvanarbhumi Airport saga next week.
According to informed PAD sources, whether the movement will become a political party depends on two main factors – the immediate political outlook and whether a consensus can be achieved on who leads the party.
Thousands or tens of thousands of PAD members will hold a convention at the Thammasat Rangsit Campus between May 24-25. It remains unclear if or how a resolution on the issue can be forged at the meeting.
The PAD doesn’t have a clear representation structure at the provincial or district levels. This means if they decide to call a ballot, the first thing to do is to decide whether it will be a referendum or “representative vote”.
“The chance [of becoming a political party] is still 50-50,” said one source. Of the top leaders, only Pipop Thongchai wants the PAD to remain what it is – a civil political movement.
But while the other leaders are leaning toward transformation, the question of who will lead the new party is proving to be very sticky. Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Srimuang are naturally the first names that come to mind, but both have glaring weak points…..