Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Octoberists and the PAD

Veterans see violence, but very few solutions

'October people' give views on stand-off

Achara Ashayagachat

In the aftermath of Black Tuesday, the public has not only questioned the government's decision to use force to disperse the protesters, but also the PAD's real intentions in justifying their fight for the good of the country.

The so-called "October people" who experienced the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in the Octobers of 1973 and 1976 and were involved in the student uprisings shared their views with the Bangkok Post yesterday over the political stand-off, drawing a grim picture of the direction and the undesirable events that could unfold.

They too have warned that more violence could be expected if the PAD refuses to budge and presses on with its demands.

Former student leader Thongchai Winichakul, an historian at the University of Wisconsin, said he believes the PAD would try to provoke more violent confrontations so that it could provide a pretext for a military intervention, just as they did before the 2006 coup.

"The PAD is an anti-democratic movement. Its goal, New Politics, is for a hierarchical political system in which privileges are given to certain groups of people at the expense of others," he said in an email response when asked for his views by the Bangkok Post.

The PAD had the right to campaign in favour of its ideas in a democratic manner, but should not try to overthrow the political system or force their New Politics down the public's throat, said the history professor.

Mr Thongchai was among the Thammasat University students arrested and detained for two years during the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy students on Oct 6, 1976.

According to him, any wrongdoings, whether they involve corruption or any other crimes committed by Thaksin Shinawatra and his cronies, should be dealt with in a democratic way through the courts of law.

"The PAD and their methods of pressing for change have damaged the country - every institution in fact - including the judiciary and the monarchy," he said.

"Is there an end in sight? I don't see it yet. But I am pretty sure that victory is at hand for New Politics, not because their ideas are better or their politics are stronger. The reason for their triumph is simple - they cannot afford to lose."

Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a Thammasat University historian, said: "I do not see the PAD-led movement as a saviour of democracy in Thailand such as what happened three decades ago.

"The PAD is not working towards empowering the ordinary people as many of us may believe, but the state apparatus, namely the Privy Council and the army, whose mechanisms are rigid and less subject to electoral rule or criticism," he said.

Mr Somsak, who was a freshy at Thammasat University when he joined the 1976 student uprising, pointed out that whether the end of the present political stalemate will come after more bloodshed will depend on how thirsty the alliance is for victory.

"The PAD, at least its key leaders, have known all along how it will end: if they are patient and not provocative, there will be no confrontation.

"More bloodshed and clashes could occur any time if PAD continues to encourage its supporters to fight to the death," he said.

Witthayakorn Chiangkoon, a former student activist in the Oct 14, 1973 uprising, said Thailand had yet to learn a lesson from its turbulent history and urged society at large to draw lessons from the Oct 14, 1973 and Oct 6, 1976 incidents and prevent more street violence.


Chaturon blasts PAD on Oct 14 anniversary

Former activist refuses to attend ceremony

Nattaya Chetchotiros, Aekarach Sattaburuth

Chaturon Chaisaeng, a student activist in the Oct 14, 1973 uprising, has lashed out at the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), saying its actions are leaning towards anarchy. The former acting leader of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai party failed to attend yesterday's event marking the 35th anniversary of the bloodshed.

Mr Chaturon said the organisers were not heeding the spirit of the Oct 14 revolt and he saw no point in attending.

He said 35 years had passed since the student uprising, but the country remains undemocratic.

Mr Chaturon, one of the 111 former TRT executives banned from politics, said the country is being forced to take a step backward.

He called on all sides in the crisis to protest against any new coup, which would only weaken the country.

He supported the formation of a constitution drafting committee to amend the ''undemocratic'' 2007 charter. It should also be scrutinised by the public, he said. The power of the judicial branch should be reduced.

Mr Chaturon's remarks drew strong criticism from others involved in the student uprising and organisers of the commemoration.

Hit the links to the stories to read about the Octoberists who have chosen to go over the dark side of the force.

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