Activist leaders say they will step up their protest game sooner than planned and recruit more allies for the movement in the face of a police roundup of organizers.
Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree, 23 of the Free Youth Movement, said his group is looking to move forward accelerated protests planned for late next month in response to the military-backed government’s decision to undertake a crackdown instead of hearing their demands. An exact date hasn’t been set, he said.
“You can arrest all 31 activists, but you can’t stop this movement. When you take out one person, more people raise up,” he said last night at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, hours after nine activists named on a leaked police “wanted list” were arrested. “Instead of taking us one by one, wouldn’t it be better to actually sit down and have a conversation with us?”
Tattep said the group won’t ask for less than its current three demands of dissolving the government, protecting the right to free expression and revising the constitution because they were achievable. He said enhanced protests may include marching, long-term campaigning, coordinated simultaneous actions nationwide and disrupting traffic. But he insisted any form of violence was off limits.
He said if there is violence, it will come from the state or third-party provocateurs.
Jatupat “Pai Dao Din” Boonpattararaksa, who was convicted of lese majeste in 2017 for sharing a BBC biography about the new king, said he believes the movement could expand into a national movement after it rebranded itself from the Free Youth Movement to be the Free People Movement at Sunday’s mass demonstration at the Democracy Monument which drew more than 10,000 participants.
The 29-year-old member of the Dao Din Group said he hopes the cause expands from the middle-class and youth to those denied voices by the power structure, such as farmers and miners and those in rural areas still waiting for promised COVID-19 aid.
Pai said people should stand up and call out government human rights abuses.
“Don’t let [the U.N. Human Rights Convention] be just a report at a summit,” said Pai, who was freed on a pardon last year. “Those who want to fight for the environment, gender equality, social welfare or whatever, we can find a middle ground and support each other.”
Disagreement within the protest movement about how far to push for royal reforms was evident. While some protest leaders have pushed a call for 10 demands concerning the palace, those speaking Thursday night offered no mention of changing the monarchy.
Asked whether they want to overthrow the institution, Ford said that wasn’t the case as the Free Youth Movement wants “democracy with the king as head of state.” However, he said they don’t have a problem with those with the 10 more strident demands.
“Diversity is the beautiful thing about democracy,” he said. “We may have different approaches, but we have the same goal in the big picture, so this doesn’t mean we have conflict.”
In the past month, anti-government rallies have spread across campuses nationwide following a Free Youth protest on July 18, drawing in university and high school students alike.
On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, seven activists including the attorney who broke longstanding taboo to call for royal reforms were arrested along with two activist rappers, one of whom was Dechatorn Bamroongmuang of the Rap Against Dictatorship collective.
An array of charges were filed against them including sedition, disrupting traffic and violating the COVID-19 emergency decree before being released last night.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday defended the arrests as a matter of maintaining law and order.
This article, Defiant activists vow to escalate protests in face of crackdown, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!