Nick Nostitz on the PAD’s third coming

On 2 November 2010 several thousand People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members massed at Thailand’s Parliament, alongside their core leaders including Sondhi Limthongkul and Chamlong Sirmuang, to protest against the Parliamentary debate regarding the border demarcation between Thailand and Cambodia. This has been one of the PAD’s main concerns since 2008, when they protested the first time at the Preah Vihear temple site. That protest led to a clash between locals and PAD members, and subsequent clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops.

Starting in the early morning at the Royal Plaza the PAD then moved to the main gates of Parliament. PAD chapters from many provinces were present. When I arrived there were already choruses that were heard all over the day of “Go Hok! Khai Chart!” (Lying! Selling the nation!). The atmosphere was very agitated, but otherwise peaceful.

For me personally, things changed when the more radical PAD splinter group, the “Thailand Patriot Network” under the command of Veera Somkwamkid and Chaiwat Sinsuwong, arrived. A cameraman of the satellite TV Station “13 Siam Thai” one of their two allied TV stations, shouted at me that I was a Red Shirt while we photographed the group walking along the PAD stage. He attempted to push and elbow me out of the way. When that did not work, he intentionally pushed a biggish guard into me, which I fortunately saw out of the corner of my eye. I straight away shouted at him, which also attracted the attention of Veera Somkwamkid and Chaiwat Sinsuwong. I explained to them what happened, and both apologised. Also many members of their group saw the incident. They seemed to be very embarrassed and apologised as well, and said that this was not their way.

I also went to the main leaders of the PAD to explain what happened. After Sondhi Limthongkul initially waved me away, Somsak Kosaisuk listened to me, and said that he would also talk with Veera Somkwamkid so that such an incident will not be repeated.

Soon after, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, the secretary to Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, came out of Parliament’s gate, and was immediately insulted by PAD protesters, one of them following him while continuously screaming “Khai Chart!” into his ear.

The situation turned suddenly aggressive. Sondhi Limthongkul and PAD guards came to his rescue. They briefly talked while guards kept a circle around the two and the crowd of journalists, and held a quick press conference, after which Sondhi led Chavanond back to the gate.

The PAD settled in front of parliament, and listened to speeches from the stage. They announced a big, prolonged rally staying from 11 December 2010 unless the government gives in to their demands. In the afternoon the PAD dispersed, only the “Thailand Patriot Network” remained, initially with the plan to stay at Parliament indefinitely.

I went home.

At about 8 pm police tried to arrest one of the “Thailand Patriot Network” leaders, Karoon Sai-Ngam, on an arrest warrant after he failed to surrender to the police together with other PAD leaders. The police nabbed him while he went to the toilet in Khao Din, and placed him into an SUV. Protesters managed to snatch him back while police began reading the arrest warrant to him. Police said that they did not try to arrest him again that night for fear that the group’s guards possibly have weapons.

I came back in the early morning the following day. About 200 to 300 protesters, the majority Santi Asoke members, listened to a sermon held by one of the maybe a dozen Santi Asoke monks gathered there. When finished they made a decision to disperse. The leaders greeted me in a friendly way, and we did not mention yesterday’s aggressive incident. The cameraman was present, but left me alone.

I then spoke with some of the group’s members. Their position was that accepting the border MOU of 2000 would mean that Thailand would accept the French drawn map as a de facto border, and that Thailand would lose huge tracts of land. They said that they were willing to compromise, but only if such a compromise would be of benefit to both countries, and that their protest would not just be about the conflict over Preah Vihear, but over all border issues, including the ocean border and the resulting conflicts over the disputed oil and gas fields. They also claimed that since last year’s clash at the border near Preah Vihear they have talked many times with local leaders who organised the resistance against the group, and that now these leader’s would support the “Thai Patriot Network” in its stand against the Thai-Cambodian MOU.

The group dismantled their tents, and the leaders sat with Karoon Sai-ngam. He said, when I asked him if he plans to surrender to the arrest warrant, that he did nothing wrong, and therefore does not plan to surrender. When the group left, one Santi Askoke member said that they have negotiated with police, and the compromise reached was that Karoon would not surrender, but that police could come and arrest him in the Santi Askoke center.

As the “Thai Patriot Network” left, the next group of protesters arrived – a family whose father lost his leg in a train accident, and was partly paralysed. He received only 40,000 baht compensation, and was told by the Railway authorities that if he wanted more, he should file a case.