While we all cheer the release of seven UDD leaders we should keep in mind the 151 ordinary people who still remain incarcerated and whose families rely on them for livelihoods. We must not forget the personal sacrifice of Surachai “Sae Dan” this week and work to secure his early release. Here are Surachai’s words (my translation) while in custody on 22 February 2011:
I haven’t confessed or denied anything yet. But I will fight to say that ‘the [power] above’ has been pulled down; we want this situation to be changed. Is it going to be possible, for example for Thailand to be like Japan?!! To cancel article 112 is the reason for my fighting. I’m not worried whether I would be allowed bail as I have made up my mind already that I want to see changes happen. I want to send a signal to ‘the [power] above’ to know that there is currently a serious institutional crisis. The anti-monarchy feeling is very strong now. There will be a civil war if this government is allowed to continue controlling the country, because there has already been an incident involving protestors at Rachaprasong… If we allow this to continue it will end up like in the Middle East. Therefore, the way of fighting in this case is not for seeking my release, but to fight for ‘change’. The ‘[power] above’ has to find a resolution to the problem in this country. I will fight for this, rather than ‘for myself’.
The suffering does not stop with the celebratory parties for the seven released; neither does the “game plan” stop for the mass movement (is there one?). The seeming lack of an action plan among UDD’s current acting leadership has been under some criticism, as is the inability to listen and reflect on the needs and aspirations of the masses. UDD is after all, however defined, a “New Social Movement” (р╕Бр╕▓р╕гр╣Ар╕Др╕ер╕╖р╣Ир╕нр╕Щр╣Др╕лр╕зр╕Чр╕▓р╕Зр╕кр╕▒р╕Зр╕Др╕бр╣Гр╕лр╕бр╣И) at a national level, and should not be driven by a few intellectuals at the centre. We all know that there are some fundamental disagreements over certain institutional issues and over ex-PM Thaksin’s role as either some kind of “revolutionary leader” (р╕Ьр╕╣р╣Йр╕Щр╕│р╕Ыр╕Пр╕┤р╕зр╕▒р╕Хр╕┤) or someone who has not complete clear vision; but simply and reasonably wants to see “wrongs righted” without of course changing the existing social system or its elite institutions. Differences are normal among a mass social movement so we should not be too concerned; it is even a healthy sign in a democratic context.
Expatriate Red Shirt leader Chupong (р╕Кр╕╣р╕Юр╕Зр╕ир╣М) explained recently that there are basically three divisions, though these clearly overlap, especially in the countryside:
- “Election” group, under Pheua Thai Party; hoping to get into government after the next election – assuming there will be one, and that it is going to be “fair play” (and if it is not, then what?);
- “Pro-Thaksin” group (the masses, simply because they will not forget what Thaksin did for them: social, economic and political inclusion; opportunity and economic development); and
- “Democracy revolution” group, under its leader Surachai “Sae Dan” Danwattananusorn, statistically increasing in numbers as a drift occurs from dissatisfaction with UDD leaders, other than its immediate objectives – the most important (the release of core leaders) having now been achieved.
Many also feel that UDD’s “tail wag the dog” policy is not going to see substantive changes to the status quo; it is a strategy of “reform” (р╕Ыр╕Пр╕┤р╕гр╕╣р╕Ы) to what can only be called the impossible. Tida Tawornsed warned UDD followers in a media conference that change may take a long time and also that “we cannot take risks”. In other words: stay where we are and continue to rattle the foot-clappers. But can people wait? The UDD’s lack of intent to tackle the contentious 112 and the constitutional framework in which this is embedded for instance has not gone unnoticed by the masses. Unless Article 112 is addressed directly, then nothing will change the injustices that many people are confronting. It will not all go away by simply closing our eyes.
Some within the movement feel that the existing power equation and its imposed politico-legal framework itself must be completely uprooted – as for example looking to the Middle East for case studies. In this logic, the more we are constrained to have to work within social, cultural and political structures and accept these, regardless of whether they are indeed ethical or legitimately based, the more we infuse credibility to a regime that we do not agree with. We cannot “beat the devil” at her/his own game.
OK, so there are different strategies and views as to where to next; but we should all share the same goals. It is, as Chupong noted, like a big intergenerational family with differences among members (so who did not argue with their parents when growing up?): but at the end of the day everyone shares the same common interests and should recognise the same enemy outside.
As the celebrations die down for the seven core leaders we should reflect on where we have come and where to go from here. Let the existing UDD leaders have time to consider and listen to their constituencies so as not to become out of touch with the masses. The leaders then need to identify and fix any errors before it is too late. The process of uprooting the amaat regime “lock, stock and barrel”; of seeking electoral democracy with proper political representation, and achieving good governance for the people of Thailand should go forward. And it should go forward according to a concrete plan agreed among all members within the family; not as a response to the tail wagging…