By Niphawan Kaewrakmuk
The escalation of anti-government protests led by former Democrat Party MP Suthep Thaugsuban has caused a rift inside the opposition Democrat Party, and left it in a dilemma.
On Monday, Suthep led thousands of protesters to occupy the Budget Bureau and the Finance Ministry compound, while other groups occupied the Foreign Ministry and the Public Relations Department. A group that stayed overnight inside the Foreign Ministry compound agreed to leave late yesterday morning.
A high-ranking source from the party, who asked not to be named, said one camp, led by party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and chief adviser Chuan Leekpai and comprising MPs from Bangkok, disagreed with the occupying of government agencies, believing it could have a negative impact. The most severe threat to the party could be dissolution, so they preferred to “play by the rules” while protesting.
“A House dissolution is [bad] enough,” the source said, summarising this camp’s view.
The other camp, made up of MPs from the South, support Suthep, the source said. They want to “freeze” the country to prevent ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra from returning, the source said. “The hard part is how the party can make the public understand that it is not being two-faced,” he said.
The group opposed to the occupations wants the party to show its stance publicly, but some leaders fear that would leave Suthep looking isolated, the source said.
However, Democrat MP and former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij yesterday voiced concern over anti-government protesters occupying state offices.
As a fellow party member, Korn said he disagreed with the occupation tactic and had urged rally leaders not to violate the law.
However, he said the Yingluck government must come up with a better response to the political impasse than to simply insist that the prime minister will neither resign nor call a House dissolution.
“A million people have expressed their opinion against the government,” he said. “The government has the power to be decisive and change things, but they have opted to ignore [the demands]. This has prolonged the problem.”
On Monday night, Abhisit sent an SMS message to party MPs warning them not to violate the laws, another source said. He said Suthep had not informed party leaders of his recent tactics or consulted with the leadership. Instead, Suthep had discussed his moves with key leaders of other anti-government protest groups.