Protect Siam: What’s new?

Recently the new anti-government group “Pitak Siam”, or in its English name “Protect Siam”, under its leader General Boonlert “Sae Ai” Kaewprasit rallied at the Royal Turf Club.

It was quite obvious though that this is an attempt to regroup the same alliance whose protests led to the 2006 military coup against the Thaksin Shinawatra government and in 2008 to the ouster of the Somchai Wongsawat- led People Power Party government.

Many old acquaintances were there – several second generation People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders, members of the Group of 40 Senators, General Pathompong Kesornsuk, Dr. Tul, and several groups allied with the Siam Sammakhi network, such as Boworn Yasinthorn, leader of the “Network of Monarchy Protection Volunteers”. The Democrat Party claimed that it was not involved in Pitak Siam, nevertheless, in the days prior to the rally on Sunday, 28 October 2012, the event was heavily advertised on the Democrat Party’s Satellite TV station Blue Sky.

One of its presenters compared the coming Pitak Siam rally with Sondhi Limthongkul’s rally in Lumpini Park back in late 2005 being the spark for the 2006 PAD mass protests. Also guards that were at the recent Democrat Party rally in Lumpini were at the Pitak Siam rally on duty. Santi Asoke’s Dhamma Army organised the food.

One interesting aspect was that Prasong Songsiri made an open appearance at the rally, even spoke on the stage, as far as I know the first time in the political turmoil of the past 7 years.

A group of 52 former members of the Communist Part of Thailand who were stationed in the Khonkaen area during the insurgency took part in the rally as well. I asked them why they now allied themselves with with ultra-royalist forces while in the 1970s they were fighting them. They said that they have changed, and now support the monarchy.

The number of protesters surprised all observers. Initially 2000 to 3000 protesters were expected, but in the end about 10,000 showed up. Estimates of 20,000 are exaggerated — the stadium was not almost full, the center, opposite the stage was full, but towards the upper ranks and the side wings the crowd ranged from thin to non-existent. Also police estimates of 6000 were too low. As usual, I go with Special Branch estimates, which I have found over the last years the most reliable, and mostly correspond with my own impressions as well.

One of the second generation PAD leaders present described the event to me as “warming up the engine”. Given the number of protesters, more than any recent PAD, Siam Samkkhi or Blue Sky event, we may be in for more interesting times.