Interview with Surachai Danwattananusorn

Surachai

Laksi Prison, Date 7 January 2013

[Surachai, an important red shirt intellectual, though not popular with many of the intellectual left or right, is perhaps one of the most misunderstood red shirt leader in Thailand. His movement known as Daeng Siam has since (ostensibly) dissolved. He was noted for his entertaining and persuasive rhetorical style on stage during the mass protests. He was arrested under lèse majesté law in Nonthaburi on 22 February 2011, a few days after I first interviewed him.  Below are a few summary points from an interview earlier this month. My interest in this interview was to gauge his response towards Yingluck's Pheua Thai Government, which has seemingly refused to offer assistance to him, even though he has pleaded guilty in the court.]

…The Government are not able to do anything as quick as we would like; so we should not blame them. There are three functions of the state: administrative/executive, legislative, and judicial. The government has control only over day-to-day administrative matters. Legislation is regarded as one of the three main functions of government, the administrative branch can act only within the powers and limits set by the law. The elected government cannot intervene in the other branches. Therefore Pheua Thai cannot, no matter how much it wants to under its electoral mandate, be seen to interfere in the other branches.

The amaat regime controls the emplaced senate legislators (post 2006 coup), the Democrat Party and some minor parties in the lower house, and the powerful independent judiciary. Right now the amaat have one powerful weapon  remaining: that of the judiciary pursuing the interests of royalists through the court process. We have now in place something of a judicial coup.[1]

Red shirts should be satisfied with what they have achieved to date, having neutralised to some extent some instrumentalities of the amaat regime, and must now start to work together with the elected government on democratic changes. However, they must remain constructively critical, make sure Pheua Thai are not forced into a corner by red shirts where they cannot achieve any progress in achieving reforms. The government is already largely pinned down at each corner by the amaat regime. Right now Pheua Thai is the only hope we have to move democracy forward through elected government; a democratic structure needed in achieving progress.

Surachai said that we should raise hopes on the outcome of any referendum to amend the 2007 military-amaat constitution as this will not be implemented; the amaat will never allow change to its sacrosanct charter. Placing too much hope on this is pointless. The government does not have enough support on consensus-driven politics, either inside or outside Parliament. [2] Pro-democracy groups should be prepared for likely violence as the amaat-Democrat Party alliance looks for any excuse to try to destroy the government.[3]

[On why he pleaded guilty:] Surachai said he knows the government cannot do anything for him as this is a matter of the courts and his stay in prison will likely be until the end of his life. He wants to expose the whole system but he knows it will all take time to change.

[Image source]



[1] Given the failure and lack of credibility of the Democrat Party, the planned action of its orchestrated Yellow/Multi-Coloured Shirt street thugs, and the failure of the army in launching a coup post-2011 election.

[2] At the last Parliamentary session on the second vote to amend the charter even a number of Pheua Thai’s own members abstained from voting due to fear, bribery and coercion.

[3] Red shirts have indicated that there will be street protests by ultra right wing nationalists over the Phra Vihaan if the international court issues it decision in the coming month in favour of Cambodia).