The Thai Civil Court yesterday ruled to sharply limit the authorities’ powers to deal with the ongoing anti-government protests, while maintaining the state of emergency which was declared last month amidst increasing violent incidents.
The case was filed to the court by Mr. Thaworn Senniam, a core leader of the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) [sic!], who argued that the State of Emergency enacted by the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra violates the rights to free assembly guaranteed by the 2007 Constitution. (…)
At 15.00 today the majority of the judges ruled that the government will not need to repeal the State of Emergency, but the verdict also prohibits the authorities from exercising many powers prescribed in the emergency decree.
According to the verdict, the security forces cannot launch a crackdown on anti-government protesters, seize any chemicals from the protesters, dismantle any barricades erected by the protesters, prevent individuals from entering any building at their own will, close down traffic, evacuate or seal off protest areas.
Most notably, the authorities are also prohibited from banning political gathering – the crucial aspect of the emergency decree.
“Court Strips Govt Of Various Emergency Powers“, Khaosod English, February 19, 2014
The ruling comes a day after deadly violence erupted between security authorities and protesters on Tuesday at Phan Fah Bridge as the police attempted to reclaim some rally sites occupying public roads. One policeman and four protesters were killed by gunshots with 68 reported injured. It appears that both the police, but also men among the protesters, were heavily armed and exchanged gunfire, in addition to a widely circulated online video showing a grenade attack on police officers (WARNING: graphic content!).
The court, however, found that the protests were being carried out “peacefully without weapons,” and ordered that the demonstrators’ rights and freedoms “be protected according to the Constitution.” The decision bars the government from using force or weapons to crack down on the demonstrators.
“Thai Court Limits Crackdown on Protesters“, New York Times, February 19, 2014
The Civil Court echoes a decision last week made by the Constitutional Court to reject a petition by the ruling Pheu Thai Party to outlaw the protests, similarly stating that the actions by the protesters – including the seizing of government buildings, threats against members of the media and most of all the obstructions on election day - are covered by the constitutional right to protest and should be challenged under the criminal law instead, if at all.
It has to be noted that during the anti-government red shirt protests of 2010, the Civil Court upheld the authorities’ right to disperse protesters since they have “caused hardships and hurt people’s freedom and [authorities] have full rights to reclaim the area.”
The reactions from the government side have been rather tame: interim deputy-prime minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the ruling will “complicate” the work of the security officials, while the man in charge of overseeing the protests, Chalerm Yubamrung, remained unconcerned, since they had “no plans to disperse the protesters anyways for now” and even thanked the Civil Court for not outlawing the state of emergency, which is still scheduled to end on March 22.
However, other observers see this as another wrench being thrown into the caretaker government’s works in its dealing with the protesters. Human Right Watch’s Sunai Pasuk sums it up:
Emergency Decree is rendered meaningless by Civil Court’s ruling that government can’t disperse & enforce restrictions on protesters.
— Sunai (@sunaibkk) February 19, 2014
Prominent legal analyst Verapat Pariyawong, who earlier called the Constitutional Court “indifferent to the flagrant abuse” by the protesters, goes even so far saying:
The Thai civil court’s order today is one step closer to full scale judicial coup. (…)
2. The constitutional court’s ruling only binds the civil court legally but not factually. That means the civil court is bound by legal interpretation but there is no judicial basis for the civil court to rely on factual determination by the constitutional court. The constitutional court determined the facts at one point in time but facts change by minute, therefore it is judicially impossible and legally illogical for the civil court to disregard the current situation and conveniently rely on the constitutional court’s ruling.
In sum, the civil court basically teamed up with the constitutional court in attempts to intervene in the executive domain, where the court has no accountability, and pave ways for the protestors to claim pseudo-legitimacy to overthrow the government.
Facebook post by Verapat Pariyawong, February 19, 2014
The Civil Court’s ruling has effectively cut off the emergency decree at its knees and the powers of interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government are seemingly being more and more marginalized – than it already is by law – by the judiciary and (supposedly) neutral government agencies.
The Election Commission has changed its plans again to complete February 2 elections (more background here), while the National Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating against PM Yingluck herself for “neglect of duty” in the government’s increasingly disastrous rice-pledging scheme.
These developments will also very likely embolden the protesters to further up the ante in their disruptive crusade to bring down the government by – judging by past actions – any means necessary.
The outcome of the February 2 general election in Thailand remains in legal limbo as the Election Commission (EC) has announced the catch-up dates for the constituencies where voting was disrupted by anti-government and anti-election protesters:
The Election Commission is to hold second chance advance voting in 83 constituencies on April 20, followed by general election re-runs at 10,284 polling stations on April 27. (…)
[Election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn] explained that the new dates were set for April because the meeting had concluded that voting disruption was likely to escalate during the Senate elections, the first day of candidacy registration for which is scheduled on March 4. Voting for senators is set to begin on March 30.
Regarding the 28 southern constituencies which are still without candidates for the general election, Mr Somchai said the EC wants the caretaker government to issue a royal decree to fix a new election date for the 28 constituencies. The EC will write a formal request to be submitted to officials tomorrow, he added.
“General election re-runs set for April“, Bangkok Post, February 11, 2014
Advance voting on January 26 saw widespread blockades in Bangkok and many parts in the South, preventing 2 million people from voting. On election day 10,284 polling stations in 18 provinces (again mostly in the South and in Bangkok) were forced to shut down or didn’t open at all due to disruptions by anti-government protesters. Official figures show that over 20.5 million people did cast their ballot, a low turnout of 47.2 per cent.
The Election Commission already announced before the polling stations opened (at least those that could) that there would be no official results on that day, leaving a lot of questions unanswered and a lot of issues unresolved. Twenty-eight districts in the South are without any candidates – they were prevented from registering – meaning the mandatory quorum of 95 per cent to form parliament cannot be fulfilled.
Since the election, the EC and the caretaker government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have clashed on what should happen next and when the catch-up polls can be held in the aforementioned districts. In essence, the government argues that the EC has to hold by-elections as soon as possible and has to ensure that it they go smoothly, since that is its duty. On the other hand the EC is reluctant to hold them, citing legal reasons but also safety concerns as many election officials in the South are still being hindered. It should be noted that the Election Commission also displayed some unwillingness to go through with the February 2 elections.
EC officials justified the late catch-up election date with the hope that the political tensions may have calmed down by then, as anti-government protesters are still rallying in central parts of Bangkok, albeit with almost non-existent attendance at their rally stages during the day.
In the interim, elected senators will have completed their term on March 1 and new ones have to be elected on the March 30. That is eight days after the ongoing state of emergency for Bangkok and some surrounding areas is scheduled to be lifted (March 22) – but it would still cover the senate candidate registry on March 4, which is likely to be disrupted by anti-election mobs, as feared by the EC. Should the protests prolong until the scheduled April election dates, the catch-up polls could still be targeted.
As mentioned, 28 districts in the south were not even able to file candidates for the February 2 elections due to blockades in late December and the EC did not extend the registration period. Instead, the commission still proposes that the caretaker government should issue a new royal decree in order to start the entire election process for the affected constituencies. The government, however, has rejected that idea in the past and according to a legal expert of the ruling Pheu Thai Party, it wouldn’t be legally possible since the royal decree process dictates that after the dissolution of parliament the subsequent election day “must be the same throughout the Kingdom” (see Article 108 of the Constitution). Also, a second royal decree could void the original parliament dissolution decree and thus render the February 2 elections nullified and meaningless.
In a related development, that is exactly what the opposition Democrat Party – which boycotted these elections – is trying to achieve as they have petitioned the Constitutional Court to nullify the whole election since it wasn’t held in one day and it would violate Article 68 of the Constitution with the clear intention to get the interim prime minister Yingluck and the ruling Pheu Thai Party banned. But…
Legally, it is difficult to understand this argument. The election could not be held on one day largely because of the actions of a protest movement to which the Democrat party gives thinly-disguised support.
The use of section 68 is even more baffling. This section outlaws any actions that could threaten the existing democratic system, with the King as head of state. The Democrat argument appears to be that in calling the election at a time of turmoil, and against the advice of the Election Commission, the government put the political system in jeopardy.
“The constitution gives a clear and flexible mechanism to re-run the election where it has been obstructed,” says lawyer Verapat Pariyawong. “It is ironic that the Democrats are citing section 68, as this really ought to be used to deal with the disruptions of the protesters rather than the actions of the government. There are no legal grounds I can see for annulling the election.”
“No grand bargain amid Thailand political crisis“, by Jonathan Head, BBC News, February 10, 2014
The Constitutional Court is scheduled to decide whether or not to accept the petition today (Wednesday). UPDATE: The court rejected.
So the February 2 election remains in limbo for at least another two-and-a-half months, while the caretaker government is facing more and more problems, most recently with rice farmers waiting to be paid subsidies and a related anti-corruption investigation and another one for proposed constitutional amendments. Thailand’s political crisis continues with no clear answers on where it will go and how it will all end.
The political standoff took a new twist Tuesday when the Thai government’s declared state of emergency to counter the ongoing anti-election protests. With additional developments in the background, the wheels in this political crisis are about to spin faster.
With the mass anti-election protesters’ campaign to “shutdown” the capital Bangkok entering its second week, the Thai caretaker cabinet decided to declare a state of emergency (SoE) on Tuesday evening as a response to the continuous targeting of government offices and banks by the protesters. The move also comes after explosions on Friday and on Sunday injured over 60 demonstrator and killed one. The suspects are still at large and police have set a 500,000 baht bounty on the perpetrator of Sunday’s blast.
The 60-day state of emergency, starting on Wednesday, will last until March 22 and covers Bangkok and in parts its surrounding provinces Nonthaburi, Thonburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakarn. While the emergency decree is significant in principle – potentially expanding the power of security forces to include searches, arrests and detentions people with limited judicial and parliamentary oversight and also censor media coverage – details of which regulations are being issued had yet to emerge as of publishing.
The announcement also includes a restructuring of the government organization tasked with handling the demonstrations. It now officially called the “Center for Maintaining Peace and Order” (CMPO) or “ศูนย์รักษาความสงบ” (ศรส.) in Thai.
Tuesday’s announcement brought a familiar face in Thai politics back to the front line with the Pheu Thai MP Chalerm Yubamrung, who announced the CoE, assuming the position as CMPO director, while police chief-general Adul Saengsingkaew and defence ministry’s permanent-secretary Nipat Thonglek acting as operating directors.
Chalerm is a veteran politician known for his bullish appearance and his reputation of being a blowhard, to put it mildly. When he was reappointed from deputy prime minister overlooking national security to labor minister in a reshuffle last year, he bemoaned his apparent political downfall. But when the current protests kicked off last November, somehow Chalerm managed to wrestle his way back into the headlines when he seemingly single-handedly took charge of monitoring the rallies led by opposition politician Suthep Thaugsuban – practically his political counterpart and arch-nemisis. Weeks later, Chalerm even boastfully and colorfully announced that he’s “****ing back!”
The CMPO declared that the rallies by Suthep – who in April 2010 as deputy PM issued the last SoE declared in Thailand during the red shirt protests – have “constantly violated the law, especially in closing down government offices and banks and harassment against civil servants to prevent them from working.” But at the same time they insist there are no plans to crack down on the protesters and are hoping that Suthep will surrender himself to the authorities. A notable sight during the televised announcement was the toned down presence by military officers, normally front and center at such announcements, even though many hold positions in the CMPO.
As the effects of the state of emergency declaration are yet to take effect, the government of caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has taken a proactive role after months of a hesitant, non-confrontational approach by police. Protest leader Suthep was unsurprisingly defiant, as he called the authorities to “come and get us” and still insists that his movement is “peaceful” despite riots and threats by its militant wing. Suthep says that the protests will continue with a view to stopping the February 2 election.
In related news, the Election Commission (EC) – still very reluctant to hold the February 2 polls – has asked the Constitutional Court to review the possibility of postponing the election. According to the constitution, a general election cannot be moved to another date, but by-elections can. However, with the SoE declaration affecting only Bangkok and surrounding provinces, the court may actually find a reason delay the vote because of these special circumstances. Moreover, candidacy registration has been disrupted by anti-election protesters in over 20 districts in the deep South.
With the state of emergency declaration the tense standoff between protesters and caretaker government goes to the next level and is less than likely being resolved anytime soon, since the government seemingly determined to hold the February 2 election and Suthep most likely now even more determined to stop it. Adding to that the EC’s ongoing efforts to delay the February 2 elections, the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s investigation against 308 mostly Pheu Thai lawmakers for their role in the proposed constitutional amendments and another probe directly targeting caretaker prime minister Yingluck for her rice subsidy scheme, the current political crisis in Thailand could be in very real danger of spinning out of control.
Thailand’s Election Commission has asked the caretaker government of interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to postpone the general election scheduled for February 2, voicing its concern over “violence and chaos” amid the ongoing anti-election protests.
The Election Commission of Thailand (EC) is responsible for holding elections and to ensure that these take place legally and fairly. The EC consists of five commissioners, who are elected by a special committee (including the head of the Constitutional Court) and confirmed by the senate. Since the military coup of 2006, the commission has held two nationwide elections in 2007 and 2011 and in both cases re-incarnations of toppled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s party have won.
Now, after a new set of five commissioners was confirmed on December 13, 2013, just a few days after Thaksin’s sister and caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck dissolved parliament and called for snap-elections on February 2, the Election Commission seems more than reluctant to have another one.
The first signs appeared right after Yingluck’s announcement to dissolve the House, when one of the commissioners, Sodsri Satayathum, expressed some doubt:
The election commission is ready to hold elections, but I’m not sure whether the political groups want to hold it or not. If the political groups are not ready for an election, there’s no use for the election commission to do it.
“Thai Premier Rejects Demands That She Quit“, New York Times, December 10, 2013
What then followed was a series of contradictory statements, a back and forth between different commissioners and in general a farcical performance by a government agency that is supposed to take care of the election process, but is apparently unwilling to do so.
BANGKOK, Dec 17 – Newly-appointed Election Commission (EC) chairman Supachai Somcharoen stands firm that a snap poll must be held on February 2.
He said the EC is obliged to organise the general election as imposed in the royal decree and the candidacy applications, set for December 23-27, will be held as scheduled despite a protesters’ threat to hold a rally at the registration sites.
“Election commissioner firm on Feb 2 general election“, MCOT, December 17, 2013
BANGKOK, Dec 19 – Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) today urged the government and protesting groups to hold talks on postponing the February 2 general election. (…)
Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, one of the five commissioners in charge of election administration, admitted that it is difficult to hold a smooth election amid the present political climate and possible chaos. “This is an abnormal situation. All factions should hold talks for a smooth election. Don’t take February 2 as a condition or restriction (for political resolutions). (…)” he said.
“Election Commission hints at postponing Feb2 election“, MCOT, December 19, 2013
BANGKOK, Dec 20 – The Election Commission (EC) announced today to go ahead with a snap poll on February 2 amid escalating calls for national reform before such an election.
EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said after meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that the EC did not offer to mediate among different factions in light of political conflicts. He said the prime minister and election commissioners agreed that an election is essential and should be held fairly but the EC would not give its opinions whatsoever.
“Election Commission goes ahead with Feb 2 election“, MCOT, December 20, 2013
The EC then organised the candidacy registration at the Thai-Japanese Stadium sports complex in the Bangkok district of Din Daeng, despite repeated threats by the protesters to disrupt the week-long process. That was what exactly happened and the situation escalated almost immediately some protesters sparked violent clashes, causing the death of one protester and one police officer (the circumstances of his death initially unclear), and later seized the registration location in order to bar everybody from entering.
Despite the possibility to move elsewhere in order to avoid the protesters the EC decided to keep the registration location where it was. After the violence in Bangkok and disruptions by protesters at registrations in 28 districts in the southern provinces (to which there would be no extension period) the commission then said the elections should be called off.
The flip-flopping by the EC continued in the new year when the election was confirmed by a commissioner and the secretary-general, only then to be put in doubt again a week later after the auditor-general urged the Election Commission to reconsider whether holding the February 2 election is worth the estimated 3.8bn Baht ($116m). On January 10, Isara News Agency reported first that the EC was going to submit an urgent letter to Prime Minister Yingluck, asking her to issue “a royal decree postponing the elections,” echoing the auditor-general’s sentiment that under the current circumstances it would a huge “waste of state funds”. However, tha was denied by the EC secretary-general. But a few hours later then…
The EC has confirmed it has written to govt asking it to postpone the election.
— Jonathan Head (@pakhead) January 10, 2014
So #Thai Election Commission is SPLIT on whether they have written to govt to request delay in Feb 2 election.
— Jonathan Head (@pakhead) January 10, 2014
Responding to the Election Commission’s letter, Prime Minister Yingluck invited the EC, all political parties (incl. the boycotting Democrat Party) and the anti-election protesters themselves to discuss a possible election postponement. But none of the opposition showed up and the commissioners sent their secretary-general to the meeting and Yingluck announced that the elections would go ahead on February 2.
Then, the Election Commission invited Yingluck to attend a meeting on Friday. However, commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn couldn’t resist to include that quip:
นายสมชัยระบุว่า (…) ถ้าหากยังไม่มาก็จะส่งจดหมายเชิญไปอีก จะเปลี่ยนโรงแรมที่นัดคุยไปเรื่อยๆ ซึ่งสุดท้ายอาจจะเป็นโรงแรมโฟร์ซีซั่นส์ นายกฯ ก็อาจจะมาหารือ
Mr. Somchai said (…) “if she [PM Yingluck] doesn’t come, we’ll still send out invites, keep changing hotels to meet until we finally [zeroed in on] the Four Seasons Hotel. May be then she’ll come, no?“
“ตะลึง! “กกต.สมชัย” งัดโฟร์ซีซั่นส์เหน็บ “ปู”“, Khaosod, January 16, 2014
The Four Seasons Hotel is a reference to a heavily rumored (and still unproven) private issue concerning the prime minister. It begs the question why a high-level official like Somchai is making such a statement. Looking back at the series of flip-flops and contradictory remarks, we have to wonder what role the Election Commission is playing here? Because by the looks it, we should not ask how the election can be delayed, but rather if the Election Commission wants to hold one at all?
With the ongoing protests escalating again, anti-election protesters spread out across Bangkok this week in their much-touted “shutdown”, further putting pressure on the caretaker government of interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign and to cancel the elections scheduled for February 2. Various factions inside the protest movement have also mobilised. One group in particular drew attention after this threat on Monday:
Protesters announced they will close the entrance of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (Aerothai) on Ngam Duplee road and also the Stock Exchange of Thailand on Ratchadapisek road if caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refuses to resign before the deadline on Wednesday. Aerothai is in sole charge of all communications between aircraft and air traffic controllers in Thailand.
The blockade would be carried out by the Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform (SPNTR). Uthai Yodmanee, a core leader of SPNTR, said Monday morning that if Ms Yingluck did not resign and leave the country by the given deadline, his supporters would close access to both sites.
He said the stock market has to sacrifice because Thai investors are still ignoring the situation and the protesters viewed the stock market as the “heart” of the Thaksin regime, because former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was still able to manage the capital markets from overseas.
“SET, air traffic control targeted“, Bangkok Post, January 13, 2014
A similar threat was also made the night before by Nittikorn Lamlua, a senior advisor to the faction, adding that it would be solely under the responsibility of this group, not of the main protest leaders. A spokesman for the main protest leaders, in an attempt at damage control, almost immediately issued a denial that any protesters would target Thailand’s air traffic control or any other public transport system. However, Uthai was seemingly unfazed by their main allies’ apparent disapproval and reiterated his threats on Tuesday night:
(…) the hard-line movement Students and People Network for Thailand’s Reform (STR) yesterday confirmed it planned to blockade the Stock Exchange of Thailand and the offices of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AeroThai) if caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra did not resign.
STR coordinator Uthai Yodmanee said the group would wait until 8pm tonight [Wednesday] – its deadline for Yingluck to step down. “If Yingluck does not resign by then, the STR will block the stock market and the Aeronautical Radio of Thailand office,” he said, adding that STR leaders were designing a strategy on how to blockade the two places.
Any disruption of AeroThai’s services could cause chaos for civilian aircraft, including domestic and international passenger flights, scheduled to land in Thailand, as well as those flying through Thai airspace, Uthai said.
“AeroThai and SET are in protesters’ sights“, The Nation, January 15, 2014
It seems that the protest leadership is losing control over the most hardline and militant wing in their movement, which has previously already been at forefront of this protests’ most volatile and chaotic actions.
The so-called “Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand” (NSPRT) – or in Thai กลุ่มเครือข่ายนักศึกษาประชาชนปฏิรูปประเทศไทย (คปท.) – is led by Uthai Yodmanee, a student union leader at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok. The 32-year-old’s political activity goes back as far as 2006, when he was involved in anti-government protests led by the “People’s Alliance for Democracy” (PAD), also known as the yellow shirts, demanded the ouster of then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (source). In May 2007 (after the military coup of ’06), he reportedly laid flowers at the Constitutional Tribunal, thanking them for dissolving Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party (source).
He also joined the rubber farmer protests last year, which in part turned violent. The anti-Thaksin stance would become a constant in Uthai’s political activism. It is reported that he has close ties to fellow southerner Thaworn Senniam, who resigned as deputy leader of the opposition Democrat Party in order to lead the anti-government protests.
The NSPRT came on the scene last year when rallies led by the opposition Democrat Party and others targeted the government’s amnesty bill drafts last August, but failed to gain momentum and were slowly fading in support, which led to one anti-government group’s relocation of their rally site. That was when the NSPRT took over that stage and was seen as a political fringe group for the first time. With the rewritten amnesty bill draft passing parliament in late October, the anti-government protesters were reignited, which led to the anti-government rallies that are still going on until today.
Another central figure of the NSPRT is the faction’s senior member Nititorn Lamlua, a “human rights lawyer” of the Lawyers Council of Thailand and previously attached to the PAD. His most recent activism before the protest targeted the government’s 350bn Baht water management scheme ($10.6bn), which has been criticized for its non-transparent process among other complaints.
As the Thai academic Aim Sinpeng correctly observed, “nationalism, anti-mega projects and anti-corruption underlie some of the main motivations” for both men and the NSPRT.
What also distinguishes the hardcore faction are their extreme actions during the protests. Nititorn led a rally to the United States Embassy in mid-December after previously threatening to storm it. The US State Department statement earlier supported the “democratic process in Thailand,” essentially endorsing the February 2 elections. At the embassy, Nititorn bizarrely suggested that the US ambassador Kristie Kenney should leave the country. ”If she needs to leave the embassy, she’ll have to go by helicopter because she has badmouthed the protesters,” he was quoted as saying. The NSPRT also attacked the Election Commission’s registration center in Bangkok in late December, where two people were killed in the clashes with police and have later temporarily seized the building.
With the deadline imposed by the NSPRT looming and the uncertainty over what will happen next in the “Bangkok shutdown”, the questions are if this fringe group will actually launch an(other) attack designed to incite chaos – this time severely threatening to disrupt Thailand’s air safety – and whether or not the main leaders have any control over their hardliners. As recent events have shown, there are small groups among the protesters that are prone to spark violent escalations and the NSPRT is one them.
This is part XXIV of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, an ongoing series where we collect the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures. Check out all past entries here.
Ever since deciding not to compete in the upcoming snap-elections on February 2 after a lot of meandering, the implosion of the opposition Democrat Party has left Thailand’s political party in a bit of an existential downward spiral as it tries to echo the anti-election protesters’ mantra of “reform before elections”, while still grasp at the last bits of political relevancy the party has. In an effort to maintain that, the Democrat Party has launched its non-election campaign to
discourage convince people to follow their boycott.
Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva held a speech at a party event called ”Eradicate Corruption, Committed In Reforms” in Bangkok on Tuesday, when this happened:
Here’s a description of what happened:
[...] an unidentified man stood up in the audience and blew his whistle. The audience mistook him as a supporter of Mr. Abhisit, since whistle-blowing has been a trademark of the anti-government protesters, and no one restrained him until he held up a sign which read – in English – “Respect My Vote!”.
The heckler then shouted at Mr. Abhisit, “If you cannot even reform yourself, how can you reform the country?”. Mr. Abhisit was visibly surprised by the incident, but the former leader tried to manage the confrontation by thanking the man for his remarks.
However, the heckler went on to shout, “When you were the government, why didn’t you do it? Stop the discourse about anti-corruption. You have intimidated other people, so can they not intimidate you as well?”.
“Heckler Tells Abhisit To ‘Respect My Vote‘”, Khaosod English, January 7, 2014
The heckler was later identified to be a 34-year-old Bangkok businessman referred under his Facebook handle “Ake Auttagorn” who told Prachatai that he staged the one-man protest “out of frustration” at the political discourse now and that “Thailand already had this lesson many times before” with the Democrat Party “always at the center of it”.
And this is how Abhisit reacted to the heckler…
“This is an example of reasons why we need reforms,” Mr. Abhisit told the audience, “This is the form of Democrat Party′s rivals”, to which the heckler shot back, “I am not your rival, I am the people!”
Security guards later surrounded the man and led him out of the room. After the heckler has been removed, Mr. Abhisit told the crowd that such harassment is a reason why the upcoming election on 2 February 2014 would not be a fair one.
“Heckler Tells Abhisit To ‘Respect My Vote‘”, Khaosod English, January 7, 2014
While he at least didn’t snap back at the heckler (and could have said something like, you know, “stupid bitch”), Abhisit failed to ackowledge that the need for reform is not because of a heckler disrupting him, but rather because of an uncompromising deliberate escalation by the political opposition and the anti-election protesters originating from a long-held contempt for electoral democracy, those who vote for their political rivals and the failure of the opposition to effectively present itself as a viable political alternative. The Democrat Party has chosen to be part of the problem rather than being part of the solution, no matter how loud the whistle is being blown on them.