Virus of double standards III

12 04 2021

As the virus surges across the country, even more double standards are revealed. One is highlighted in a Bangkok Post editorial that questions Thailand’s lagging vaccination program, where the king’s company, subsidized with taxpayer funds, is still several months away from producing any vaccine.

The program was, in principle, meant to target “frontline health workers [as]… the top priority, followed by vulnerable groups such as patients with acute and chronic diseases, people with possible exposure to Covid-19, those who live in particularly at-risk areas, and also people living and working in tourism destinations set to open for foreign visitors.”

But, as usual, the powerful are cutting in and grabbing the shots ahead of everyone else. The expected “celebrity” shots have included The Dictator and some royals – we guess that the rest of the latter have been vaccinated. When the execrable Princess Sirivannavari got her first AstraZeneca shot, the accompanying story “explained” that the shot was “suitable for those who have a high risk of infection from interacting with patients or those who travel frequently and interact with many different people,” suggesting an odd reason for the Princess jumped the queue.

But it is the generals and other junta-appointed supporters of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in the Senate who get the Post’s attention.

Japanese cats

Senators voting

The Post reports that “wrong priorities sparked an outcry from several MPs who raised the matter with House Speaker Chuan Leekpai, asking why MPs have not been vaccinated, like those in the Upper House.” This complaint revealed “that those 250 military-appointed senators have received their jab, while many more deserving groups have missed out.”

While almost everyone in the country thinks politicians should join others in getting the vaccine when it is due to them, the Post points out that elected MPs “who have to meet their constituents think they deserve early vaccination. That’s quite different from appointed senators who are not responsible to voters in any constituency.”

In fact, the unelected senators are responsible to The Dictator they dutifully selected as prime minister and to their bosses in the military.

Of course, there’s now considerable speculation that, “[a]s all Covid-19 vaccine distribution is controlled by the government,” there must be “someone powerful” who allocated “500 doses of the vaccines (two doses a person) to a group not on the priority list.”

The editorial concludes:

The privilege afforded this special political class is appalling…. It’s a shame that the 250 senators acted selfishly, taking supplies that would have been been saved for those on the frontline. And anyone who had a hand in this happening must also be condemned.

Indeed, but this is just another example of the double standards that infect the royalist-military cabal.





Concern for Penguin

12 04 2021

A couple of weeks ago PPT posted on increasing concern for political prisoner, Parit Chiwarak or Penguin, who has been on a fast in protest against the repeated refusal of bail on lese majeste charges. He has now been on this partial hunger strike since mid-March.

Over the past few days, several alarming posts have been seen on social media, with the regime denying the worst of these. The prison says “ParitParit was able to stand up, walk, sit up and perform daily activities.”

Even so, Penguin’s condition is such that he requires close monitoring by nursing staff, 24 hours a day.

On April 10, those nursing staff were said to have declared Penguin, to be “in good condition.” The details tend to suggest otherwise; he has “slight exhaustion and slightly dry lips,” and “itchy rash on the chest and back” and “still receives intravenous infusion…”.

With virus cases exploding across the country, all detainees are now in grave danger.





Virus of double standards II

11 04 2021

The Bangkok Post reports that at least 22 “detained on charges related to the protests,” mostly using Article 112.

While the Criminal Court has granted bail to Patiwat Saraiyaem, on the basis that he “pledged not to breach Section 112 … and also stay away from political rallies…”, it refused bail for to other political prisoners, Somyos Pruksakasemsuk and Jatuphat Boonpattaraksa.

The report adds that Somyos and Jatuphat “joined other protest figures in signing a letter expressing their intention to withdraw their lawyer from their Section 112 trial,” but did not detail the complaints made by the detainees.

Thai PBS states that the “court said that it doubts the credibility of the two Ratsadon leaders’ pledge not to mention the revered institution in future protests, after they refused to recognize the trial process.”

Prachatai provides an account of the withdrawal of defense lawyers, based on Thai Lawyers for Human Rights:

22 people facing charges relating to the protests on 19 – 20 September 2020, including 7 protest leaders facing lèse majesté charges, have withdrawn their legal representation in protest at court measures and treatment by prison officials which deny them the right to a fair and open trial.

The 22 are listed as:

The 23 defendants in the case are Chinnawat Chankrachang, Nawat Liangwattana, Nattapat Akhad, Thanachai Aurlucha, Thanop Amphawat, Thanee Sasom, Phattaraphong Noiphang, Sitthithat Chindarat, Suwanna Tallek, Anurak Jeantawanich, Nutchanon Pairoj, Atthapol Buaphat, Adisak Sombatkham, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, Panupong Jadnok, Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, Chukiat Saengwong, and Chaiamorn Kaewwwiboonpan.

The defendants “requested to withdraw their legal representation and their lawyers requested to be released from their duties.” They consider the “courtroom has been made into a prison.”

The defendants and lawyers say they are not receiving a fair and open trial and their rights are not being respected. According to TLHR the defendants:

  • have not been allowed to speak to their lawyers individually and confidentially, as they were always under the control of prison officials
  • who are detained pending trial and those granted bail have not been allowed to discuss the case with each other
  • family members and other individuals have been prevented from observing the proceedings, with some family members initially forbidden from even entering the court building and told by court police that they do not have permission to enter the courtroom
  • family members have been prevented from personal contact with the political prisoners, and at times they have been prevented from handing over personal items and food

Political prisoner and lawyer Arnon Nampa wrote a declaration to the court saying:

… he would like to withdraw all legal representation on the ground that he has been denied bail and treated in ways which are degrading, that he cannot participate in a judicial process which is “carried out with fear and without taking human dignity into account.” He also wrote that the law has been used to silence the demands of the younger generation, that violence has been used to suppress protests, and that their detention will lead to fear in society and no one will dare to speak the truth.

“In this trial, our right to fully fight the case has been violated,” he wrote. “The courtroom has been made into a prison.” He then went onto say that the process is unconstitutional, and that the defendants and lawyers agreed that if they continue to participate in the procedure, they would be promoting a process of injustice.

“This case has involved the destruction of human dignity, the use of the law to silence people, and many other forms of injustice. As a person who has studied the law and who practices as a lawyer, and as one of the citizens who aim to reform the monarchy, the defendant cannot continue to participate in this process. The defendant whose name is at the end of this petition therefore requests to withdraw legal representation and refuses this process,” Anon wrote.





Updated: Virus of double standards I

10 04 2021

The double standards that characterize Thailand’s legal system run through the bureaucracy. No better example of this is seen in the treatment of the virus infected. No that Thailand’s good work – most of it due to health professionals – is being undone, with outbreaks across the country, in the police force, among senior corporate types and with half the cabinet in isolation.

This outbreak seemingly stems from entertainment venues visited mainly by the rich and powerful, including members of parliament and officials, and perhaps even a minister or two.

But there’s a cover-up and the reasons for it remain opaque and might be interpreted as pure blockheadedness but which display the usual characteristics of impunity and double standards.

Recent reports illustrate how the blockheads are also thin-skinned.

It was reported on Wednesday that Transport Minister Saksayam Chidchob, secretary-general of the Bhumjaithai Party, is infected with Covid-19 and has been admitted to Buriram Hospital for treatment. The minister quickly denied “he had not been out in the Bangkok nightlife scene where the virus has been rushing back, with hundreds of new cases found in recent days.” He claimed that “he got it from one of his staffers who had earlier tested positive for the disease.”

Saksayam

From The Nation

Most of the Bhum Jai Thai Party parliamentarians – 61 of them – and staffers are said to be quarantining. That includes Health MInister Anutin Charnvirakul who was pictured maskless with Saksayam.

But then the political instincts kicked in as netizens wondered about Saksayam’s denial and then about his vague timeline of activities (legally required for contact tracing). It was soon stated that “[t]hree people in close contact with him got the virus. One of the three is Kittichai Ruangsawat, BJT’s Chachoengsao MP, who was quoted by the media as admitting that he had accompanied Mr Saksayam to a club in Thong Lor in mid-March.” People asked if he’d been back in recent days.

Of course, when the “new” story was being concocted, Kittichai “backtracked, saying the media got it wrong.” Not him, but the media. Then it was noted that Saksayam’s denial came a day before he was virus tested as positive. One response from the minister was to lie, saying he was fully vaccinated – he wasn’t.

This fibbing was compounded when “the minister refused to unveil his timeline of activities during the period. Only after mounting social pressure did his team release one, but it was incomplete.”

With all the media and social media attention, the minister enlisted a Buriram-based doctor to defend him. Of course, Buriram is a Chidchob family fiefdom. The doctor appeared in the media:

Dr Pichet Phuedkhuntod said three close aides to the minister had visited the Krystal Club on March 30 and the Emerald Club on April 1 with four other people. They were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday and Monday and the results released a day later were positive, he added.

“His infection was from his staff members who worked close to him and who were in the (Thong Lor) cluster comprising seven people altogether.”…

Buriram provincial health “released the minister’s timeline on Thursday” showing that he did not visit entertainment places. But it was a timeline with gaps, so the banter continued.

To deal with that, Saksayam’s lawyer “warned of legal action against people who post messages online that cause damage to his client by implying that his infection was due to his visit to an entertainment venue.” Sounds a bit like a miniature version of the regime’s approach to political repression. By Friday, the minister’s complaints were being lodged with Buriram’s tame police.

Backing him is Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. He’s threatened “legal action against anyone who used the expression ‘Thai Khu Fa Club’ to mock the government amid reports a minister had contracted Covid-19 at a nightclub in Thong Lor.” The mocking appearing to consider the cabinet as constituting a “club” of entertainment venue visiting ministers.

Gen Prayuth said: “I have ordered the legal team to consider whether it is against the law or not. Using the term Thai Khu Fa … is not [right]…”. Infecting half the cabinet seems okay….

It is yet another example of the tendency to double standards – one for the rich and powerful and another for everyone else – and the almost natural response to criticism being political repression.

Update: It is reported that Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, has “called on state agencies to investigate politicians who became infected with Covid-19 after attending bars in the Thong Lor area which is the epicentre of the new surge of infections.” He targeted “corruption and law-breaking” as associated with the most recent virus outbreaks, mentioning  hi-so entertainment places in Bangkok and illegal gambling dens and illegal migrants…”. He might have mentioned the Army’s boxing stadium. In fact, it is difficult to find an outbreak that is not associated with corrupt actions and impunity.





Vendor held on 112 charge

9 04 2021

Prachatai reports data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who say that “at least 82 people are facing charges under Section 112 since November 2020.” Several face multiple lese majeste charges and a slew of other charges.

One of the most recent cases to become known involves a 22 year-old online vendor from Chiang Mai, identified only as Phonphimon or Pholpimol.  She faces both a 112 charge and a charge made under the Computer Crimes Act. The charges are reportedly related to a Facebook post from October 2020.112

Phonphimon was arrested on 31 March 2021 “by a team of 5 – 6 uniformed and plainclothes police officers who presented an arrest warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court…”.

She was taken to Chang Puak Police Station and “held overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request.”

On 1 April, she was told that “the charges were filed by Thikhathat Phrommani, who claimed he saw a Facebook post which was an insult to the King.”

The same day, the “Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled to detain Phonphimon for 12 days, on the grounds that the penalty for the charges is high and that the accused is likely to flee or tamper with evidence.” As the police already had here electronic devices and she had given them access, this is ridiculous claim by the court.

Phonphimon has denied all charges and denies the Facebook profile is hers.

The Court denied bail and she was taken to the Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution. She remains in detention.

She is “being held alone with a prison guard in a cell with no window, and that there was no light other than in front of the cell.”





All about repression

8 04 2021

Yesterday, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that “[a]n adviser to the House Committee on Law …[had] filed a complaint with police against protest leader Jatuporn Prompan for allegedly violating the lese majeste law.”

The culprit is Sonthiya Sawasdee, who “asked police at Chana Songkhram station to look into Mr Jatuporn’s speech that he delivered on Sunday at the Santiporn Park … — where he held a mass protest for the Sammakhi Prachachon Pheu Prathet Thai (People’s Unity for Thailand) — to see if it violated the lese majeste law.”

The protest was in fact held to demand the resignation of coup leader and Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, and as far as we could tell, tried to avoid commentary on the monarchy.

Still, royalist “protector” and regime lackey Sonthiya said “he believed Mr Jatuporn’s speech violated the lese majeste law but added that it was up to the police to decide whether or not to press charges against him.” Quite oddly and in the face of all evidence, Sonthiya claimed “[t]he authorities enforced the lese majeste law out of good intentions to create peace in the country…”.

In fact, we all know that the use of 112 is as a tool of political repression.

That repression is the regime’s main task is is illustrated by another Bangkok Post today which has police summoning 36 people “involved in Sunday’s protest … to answer a slew of charges that could also include lese majeste.” The report states that:112

Red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan, who organised the mass gathering on behalf of the “Thai Mai Thon (Impatient Thais)” group and Adul Khiewboriboon, leader of the Samakkhi Prachachon group, will be among 14 people summoned to meet investigators and answer charges next Thursday, Pol Maj Gen Piya Tawichai, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau said on Wednesday.

The other 14 people will be summoned to answer charges the following day, he said.

Twelve other people who had a role in the rally at Santiporn Park that spilled over into Monday were also found to have violated several laws and will soon be summoned to face charges as well, he said.

Pol Maj Gen Piya “reiterated that all public gatherings are now considered unlawful under the emergency decree and the disease control law, being implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19.”

This is an increasingly bizarre claim, but one that’s been made several times. In fact, it is ministers slipping off to bars for a bit of sexual stimulation and gratification is demonstrably a more serious virus threat, as is poor policy. and bizarre behavior.

In any case this emergency decree has mainly been used as another tool for political repression.

Police confirmed that they are “examining a recording of a speech Mr Jatuporn delivered at Sunday’s gathering to determine whether comments made violated Section 112 of the Criminal Code…”.

By our rough calculations, there are currently about 80 active lese majeste cases and another 30-40 “under investigation.”





One of the cover-ups

7 04 2021

Over the past couple of days, PPT has posted on a corruption story that the regime and judiciary hope will quickly disappear, fade away and be covered-up. Such publicity just holds up the money making that comes with office under a military-backed regime.

Interestingly, it is reported that one of the regime’s cover-ups has received some new attention, with “[a]nti-human trafficking advocates are calling on the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to indict the owner of the Victoria Secret brothel for human trafficking…”.

The Victoria Secret massage parlor case “was raided on Jan 12, 2018 and it was later revealed that minors and migrant workers had been forced to become sex workers on the premises.”

Like the Boss case involving the Red Bull scion, the owner of the parlor – said to be Kampol Wirathepsuporn – went into hiding.

The big story of the time, for us, anyway, was the link to top cops. Indeed, junta-appointed police chief Gen  Somyos Pumpanmuang, who went on to become head of the Thailand Football Association, was close to Kampol. Under pressure, In the moneySomyos revealed that he had borrowed a huge sum of money from Kampol.

Gen Somyos “explained” that he and the massage parlor owner were “friends and of course friends do help each other. I was in trouble and asked him for help several times.” One of those bits of “help” was a 300 million baht “loan” from the flesh trader.

Clearly the “help” was useful, for when he retired as Thailand’s top cop, he was one of the country’s wealthiest policemen.  He reported assets of 375 million baht back in 2014 when he joined one of the junta’s sham legislatures.

That’s how corruption cases tend to go for junta buddies – nothing much happens, apart from the covering up.





Corrupt justices, corrupt regime

6 04 2021

Yesterday, PPT posted on a possible corruption case involving “current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials…”.

Such a bombshell has received muffled attention and another cover-up might be expected. Even so, as the Bangkok Post reports, the Courts of Justice have felt compelled to provide a comment, although it is of the usual slippery variety, telling the taxpaying public that “they will take action against any judges found to have taken bribes linked to a tax dispute involving a Thai subsidiary of automaker Toyota.”

Well, maybe, for the claims are dismissed: “the office said claims without grounds that judges involved with bribery often happen during legal disputes.” Such claims were described as “bogus.” In other words, like Mafia dons they say “forget about it.”

Helpfully, Suriyan Hongvilai, spokesman of the Office of the Judiciary, “explains” that:

… the case in the focus involves a tax dispute worth about 10 billion baht between Toyota Motor Thailand Co (TMT) and tax authorities over the imports of parts for Prius cars.

He said the Supreme Court’s decision to review the dispute was announced on March 29 and the case is now pending hearings and has yet to be finalised.

He urged the public to investigate and not to rush to conclusions when bribery allegations against judges emerge.

“The Supreme Court has yet to hear and rule on the case. It just agreed to hear it and the granting of the request is line with laws which allow the Supreme Court to hear the case when it sees fit,” he said.

So, the Supreme Court decided to “review the dispute” and announced this on 29 March, the very day that Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges.” That was just 10 days after the first media report of the Toyota case. How convenient.

The clarification is in response to foreign media reports.

Thailand’s Mafia dons also appear in a separate Bangkok Post report.

Palang Pracharath Party leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has thrown his and his party’s “support behind former national police chief [Gen] Chakthip Chaijinda for the upcoming Bangkok governor election…”. The junta appointed the sitting governor, also a former top cop, and Gen Prawit expects to be able to maintain that control.

To get the job done, Gen Prawit has reportedly assigned Mafia boss, convicted heroin trafficker, and moneybags, Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thammanat Prompao to arrange the election for the party.

That’s a neat idea: a former felon will assist a former top cop. Cops are used to dealing with “dark influences” in Thailand, often working in partnership for mutual wealth creation.

One of the outcomes of coup and military dictatorship has been the alliance of the twin evils of dark influences and dark power.





Judges and Toyota

5 04 2021

At the end of March, Law 360 published the story “Toyota Probed Possible Bribes To Top Thai Judges,” written by Frank G. Runyeon. It is a story about Toyota investigating and reporting itself on possible corruption in Thailand.

It took more than six months of internal investigation “before Toyota disclosed concerns to U.S. authorities…” in April 2020.

It found that “its consultants paid off Thai judges and government officials in an effort to overturn a $350 million import tax judgment related to its Prius cars…”. The report states:

… documents obtained exclusively by Law360 and court filings in a related case show the company previously conducted its own investigation led by counsel at WilmerHale. Code-named “Project Jack,” it sought to determine whether Toyota Motor Thailand violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act or the U.K. Bribery Act by making payments to outside law firms or consultants that may have been passed to or shared with Thai judges, court advisers or others in an effort to secure a favorable outcome in the Prius tax case….

Titled “TMC Thailand Inquiry: Background & Protocol for Document Review,” the guidelines were distributed to several teams of reviewers poring over millions of company documents dating back to 2012 with help from more than a dozen attorneys and translators. The protocol appeared to show that Toyota was concerned about possible corrupt payments to current and former Thailand Supreme Court judges, as well as to the country’s top finance and justice officials….

In the Prius matter, Thai customs officials had accused Toyota of shorting the government 11 billion baht, or about $350 million today, in import taxes over a two-year period because the company did not use Thai assembly lines to build Prius cars there and instead imported pre-assembled cars, according to a WilmerHale case summary. A loss for Toyota would make its import tax obligation skyrocket from 10% to 80% of the cars’ value.

Back then, Toyota challenged the tax judgment in the courts. Its investigation was to determine “if and how payments were made,” and also “sought to confirm the amounts and whether any such payments were hidden, made indirectly, diverted to others,” ore were otherwise illegally made.

In particular, a “key question for reviewers was whether the recipients of any such payments had any connection to, influence over, or ex parte contact with sitting Thailand Supreme Court judges who might rule on Toyota’s case.”

We guess the next question is whether this case will go the way of the Rolls Royce corruption when some $18.8 million was alleged to have been paid by Rolls-Royce to “regional intermediaries” and ended up in the pockets of “agents of the State of Thailand and employees of Thai Airways…”.





Updated: Jatuporn, Nattawut and the protests

4 04 2021

Today, the recently erratic official red shirt leader Jatuporn Promphan is tentatively rallying his supporters to oppose Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha. This is surprising and somewhat difficult to understand.

Part of the reason why this is a surprise is that, as we observed back in January, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leader Jatuporn had been saying some odd political things and seemed to have had a political meltdown, as enthusiastically reported by Thai PBS. Part of the meltdown involved a dispute with Thaksin Shinawatra over local elections.

Jatuporn

Jatuporn

As everyone knows, Jatuporn has a long pedigree as a political activist dating back to the 1992 uprising against another military power grab. For his leadership of red shirts, he had faced numerous criminal charges and several arrests and served 19 months in jail when a court found him guilty of defaming the reprehensible former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who led the regime that murdered red shirts in 2010. Jatuporn’s defamation was to aptly label Abhisit “a murderer” who “order[ed] the shooting dead of the protesters.”

Despite his history of political activism, his recent outbursts saw Jatuporn labeled a “traitor” and “lackey of the military.” There was muffled cheering from royalists when Jatuporn suggested that the UDD be disbanded and that the student protesters should refrain from calling for reform to the monarchy.

All of that had observers scratching their heads when Jatuporn urged the public to join a political forum at Santiporn Park to “kick-start a campaign to find ways to end Gen Prayut’s prolonged stay in power.”

According to Jatuporn, “the forum is organised by a support group for relatives of the Black May 1992 victims,” and he hopes it leads to a sustained campaign against Gen Prayuth. He even called on former political opponents – yellow shirts – to join if they opposed Gen Prayuth.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn “is proposing to bring Prayut down as well as write a ‘people’s constitution’.” He is cited:

Jatuporn blames the prime minister for the current aggressive deployment of the kingdom’s draconian lèse majesté law against activists, which just worsens the political crisis. He reiterated that this is all the more reason why Prayut must go.

To avoid more violence and casualties, as seen in recent demonstrations, Jatuporn said that either Prayut must step down or the coalition parties must withdraw from the government.

Jatuporn says that his “new group of political activists is called Samakee Prachachon, which literally translates as ‘the people united’, to support an end to the current divide and rule strategy, wherein the Prayut regime exploits political division to hang on to political power.”

Today’s event has led to much speculation.

Thai PBS reports that Jatuporn is responding “to the call, by Adul Khieuboriboon, leader of the relatives of the victims of the ‘Black May’ event in 1992, for mass protests.”

On the right, there have been mixed responses. Some thought that an anti-regime movement that did not attack the monarchy might have political traction, whereas other rightists thought that Jatuporn remained Thaksin’s puppet.

One of the mouthpieces of the anti-Thaksinistas, former ideologue at The Nation and now writing op-eds for Thai PBS, Tulsathit Taptim, describes Jatuporn “ unpredictable” and asks: “Who is Jatuporn working for?” He promotes the idea that Jatuporn “has patched things up with Thaksin…” and that Thaksin wants to move now to prevent the regime further embedding itself through the (rigged) election processes:

The Thaksin-Jatuporn theory means Prayut will face a two-pronged attack. The current youngster-led campaign will go on, dealing with all kinds of sensitive subjects such as Article 112. Jatuporn’s army, whose size remains to be seen, will deal with the prime minister directly and push for relatively less sensitive constitutional changes like the origin and powers of the Senate. One of rare positives for Prayut in this case is that a Thaksin-Jatuporn combination would keep the Democrats more firmly in the fold.

Thaksin’s name will return to the center stage, according to this popular theory….

Meanwhile, pro-democracy protester leaders told Thai Enquirer that while “the student-led movement have not yet to discussed whether or not it would join a rally called by Jatuporn,” ousting Gen Prayuth was also one of the movement’s goals. However, the students said there “should be no division [between the groups]…”.

In other words, the students insisted the attention to the monarchy to remain. Benjar Apun, a protest leader from the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD) said:

We will not interfere with what they are doing…but our goals are aligned, with or without the demand to reform the institution….

However, the UFTD will continue to demand for the reformation of the royal institution and Jatuporn’s movement also do not have the right to interfere with this demand….

She said her group would consider joining the rally but would never drop their demands to reform the institution [monarchy].

In line with that, it is interesting to observe that Nattawut Saikua, another UDD leader, just out of jail and just this week off electronic tagging, said that he “had no plans to reunite with Mr Jatuporn…”.

Jatuporn-nattawutt

Nattawut and Jatuporn in red shirt days

However, on Tuesday, he called on the “government to release pro-democracy protesters from jail and seek a peaceful resolution to the political conflict.” He then went on to affirm that “sovereign power in the country belonged to the people as everyone is equal.”

He noted that he had been charged, arrested and jailed several times, saying: “I have no regrets over the path I chose. I have been sentenced to jail three times, but I can handle it if I have to face such punishment again.”

Nattawut reaffirmed his support for the pro-democracy protesters, saying:

The country can’t move forward if the new generation is still in jail, so the government should talk with the [young protesters] to seek a peaceful solution for the country….

These two red shirt leaders might have different aims, but the thrust of their current words and activity may further promote political struggle.

Update: Few of the mainstream media reported on the rally last night – perhaps it finished too late for stories to be filed? That said, the rally was livestreamed by various outlets, including Voice TV. Various reports were of a few hundred to 3,000 attending. Based on the broadcast PPT saw, it was very much a red shirt crowd and certainly much grey hair was evident.

Thai Enquirer did editorialize:

Jatuporn’s position also means that he is estrange politically. Having moved way from the Pheu Thai Party, Jatuporn has no ready allies in parliament. Move Forward, Palang Pracharat, Bhumjai Thai all have reason to not engage with the former red shirt leader. Ironically the party most closely aligned to his views might be the Democrat Party, the very party he once took to the streets to try to overthrow.

It is unclear how much traction this new movement will gain in the coming weeks and months or whether it will at all.

But what is clear is that if Jatuporn wants to create a stir and regain the support he once had, he is going to have his work cut out for him.