By Somroutai Sapsomboon
Piphob Dhongchai, former co-leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), insisted that the recent decision by the group's leaders - himself included - to step down was not a retreat but a move to give the group a chance to be born again.
“For as long as social disparity and injustice in the country does not get reduced, the people’s movement on the two issues will continue. But how it organises itself depends on factors at a given time. No one thought there would be a PAD, but ongoing factors caused the alliance to be created,” he told The Nation.
He went on to say that eight years was the longest period for a movement like the PAD to last in Thai history, adding that the size of the network might have prevented other aspects of the people’s movement to be noticed. Hence, it was necessary for the PAD leaders to quit and make space for other activism.
“I think it will be a rebirth,” he said.
In addition, the movement’s leaders need to prove that they are not attached to their positions, giving PAD supporters a chance to make their own decisions, which could lead to the rebirth of the group and give its activities a new dimension, he said.
Piphob went on to say that some red-shirts in his neighbourhood had also started recognising the problems posed by Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration and her older brother, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Unlike three or four years ago, nowadays red-shirt taxi drivers don’t argue with passengers in defence of the government, Piphob said.
“When Thaksin’s power depletes, the red-shirt movement will also be reborn,” he predicted, adding that it would become a people’s movement that is not attached to Thaksin.
Piphob also said that the former PAD leaders will continue being active when the PAD launches its next move.
“We haven’t quit. We have only ‘ceased our role [as co-leaders]’. We are still members of the PAD.”
Piphob said the decision to cease their roles came after the leaders realised that they had done what they could and yet were unable to change the political system. Even with Thaksin gone, other politicians like him have surfaced, he said.
He also conceded that their expectation of Abhisit Vejjajiva launching political reform while he was PM, especially in the aftermath of the 2010 crackdown, did not materialise either.
“Abhisit abandoned reform. He made a wrong political move,” he said, adding that this led to the cycle of the same old politics, which the PAD considered a failure, as the monopoly of power and corruption continuing. Also, there was no system in place to scrutinise the power of the Army. “Soldiers engage in corruption as well,” he said.
The PAD had proposed a sector-based election of MPs where people from different professions and vocations can elect their representatives without having any compulsory affiliation to a political party. He said he still believed this would cut the problem of vote buying, if not remove it all together.
Today, he still regards the Democrat Party as being opportunistic, which he said, has led to the party’s failure. He went on to say that Thaksin was still trying to establish a parliamentary dictatorship with a de facto one-party rule like in Singapore, adding that now more and more people have started realising that this is not democratic.
Also, he said, Thaksin’s power would eventually be overthrown by a revolt like what happened on October 14, 1973.