By Hataikarn Treesuwan
In order to be successful, a political rally does not just need a large number of demonstrators but also sufficient funds.
Since the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) launched its “Bangkok shutdown” campaign on Monday, it has been spending more than Bt10 million daily to maintain its eight new rally sites – double the amount it was spending when the protest was confined to the Democracy Monument, PDRC spokesperson Akanat Promphan said.
Now, in order to cover the rising costs of a rally that does not look like it will end soon, some protest leaders have even had to sell their properties. According to a PDRC source, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has already sold some of his land in the South.
In fact, Suthep himself said he had sold a plot in Samui for Bt25 million when he kicked off the protest with the first rally at Samsen train station. Reports said he sold other pieces of land in Samui later.
However, the source said, Suthep failed to sell a plot in Nakhon Si Thammarat’s Khanom district to a well-known businessman. Apparently, the businessman refused to help because he was afraid it would affect his business. A Democrat leader later confirmed this report.
However, Akanat said the PDRC was not being sponsored by big firms, adding that most businessmen did not dare back the fight against rich politicians who have been in power for more than a decade.
“They are not sure if the PDRC will win, so nobody wants to take a risk. At present, I would like to say that the PDRC does not need any big businesses to sponsor the protest. We can run the rally ourselves and with donations from the public,” he said.
When the Department of Special Investigation ordered that the 18 protest leaders’ bank accounts be frozen in December after they were charged with insurrection, Suthep managed to raise a large sum of money in donations in marches in downtown Bangkok.
According to Akanat, Suthep raised about Bt12 million in the two-day march down Silom Road on December 19 and 20. Plus, he said, the sale of PDRC souvenirs such as T-shirts, calendars and King Naresuan coins were earning them more than one million baht daily, which helped sustain the rally.
“We have tried to trim the expenditure at rally sites and are not using ‘full options’ at the Pathumwan intersection. We are also getting support from partners such as Chulalongkorn University [at the Pathumwan intersection rally site] as well as businesses at the Silom and Asoke rally sites,” Akanat said.
PDRC core-leader Satit Wongnongtaey admitted that the cost of managing the protest had risen seven-fold since the “shutdown” campaign was launched, adding that the PDRC really needed donations and that it was not just a gimmick.
“We first thought that this fight would end quickly. But we were wrong in thinking that caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would step down. Now PDRC’s spending is massive,” Satit said.