Analysis: Thailand’s protests and unwanted international scrutiny
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Analysis: Thailand’s protests and unwanted international scrutiny

One of the PDRC protest leaders who is often presented to the international press to put across the PDRC position is media personality and academic (fashion icon and part-time actor), Dr. Seri Wongmontha. Yesterday, Channel 4’s John Sparks interviewed him and posted this teaser photo online:

Channel 4:

Which brings us back to the ‘Rajprasong main stage’. While we were filming, a flamboyant speaker called Dr Seri Wongmontha was busy whipping up the crowd – the sleeves of his flowing silk jacket of turquoise and pink, flying in the wind.

“We cannot stand what Yingluck Shinawatra has done to our country,” he said before glancing over to me in the corner.

“You want an interview,” he asked with microphone in hand. I responded in the affirmative, thinking that we would catch him off-stage after his performance. But I was mistaken.

Dr Seri, a Thai television celebrity, political columnist and judge of this country’s annual transvestite beauty contest, had other plans.

What followed was a live, on-stage dual in front of thousands of protestors – and you can watch the entire unedited exchange above.

BP: See the link above for the video (at some points, Dr. Seri becomes very, very animated and we get shouts of “get out, get out” from the crowd seemingly directed at John Sparks, the Channel 4 reporter), but BP has provided a transcript below:

JS: How long are you going to stay here for?

SW: Well we will stay here until we win. And we hope that it will only be just a few days.

JS: Yingluck leads a democratically-elected government. She’s not going to stand down.

SW: Well, we accept her legitimacy that she was elected. Elections is just a process of democracy, but It is not democracy in itself. Being elected doesn’t mean that your corruption will be legalized or legitimized. Even when you are elected but if you do something unlawful, if you violate the laws, you violate the constitution, we have to overthrow you before the … ends

JS: Why not go to the people in a democratic election and put those points to them? Let them decide in an open election.

SW: We don’t have any channel to tell people what’s going on because at this moment we don’t have democracy. We have parliamentary dictatorship

because Thaksin has a huge amount of money and he has brought so many constituents of electoral process.He brought many provincial governors. He bought many provincial police commanders. He bought so many election committees.

And he also used his public scheme to lure people to support him. They like the benefit and the incentive, but they don’t know that Thaksin is corrupted. He cheated and he stole a lot of money from Thai people. We don’t want people to have a ….. culture waiting for subsidiary [subsidies? ] without considering morality, ethics, merit, and also good governance.

SW: Any more questions

JS: Sure.There are allegations of corruption, of vote-buying on both sides? You know that corruption is endemic throughout Thai society.

SW: But there is a degree. Some degree people tolerate. But Thaksin go overboard. And we will never tolerate his action again. Not only corruption. But he try to own or to take ownership of many public properties. No other government has done that before. There might be corruption or percentage of the budget. But not by issuing policy to take ownership of public property. Before you say anything. Please investigate and know the context of Thailand…. Ok, that’s enough

BP: The part about elections not being everything is well understood, but what has the government done that the Democrats won’t take part in the electoral process. The rules are the same. The Democrats have not been banned, they have not been restricted from taking part in the elections.

This talk of the PDRC not having a channel is ridiculous. The amount of publicity that Suthep has got far exceeds anything the red shirts got in 2010. Numerous times the free TV channels have aired – sometimes under the threat of force – what Suthep is saying. We are not talking 1-2 minute blocks, but 20-30 minutes. Now, we are back to soundbites on the news again, but the criticisms of Thaksin and the Yingluck government are easy to find on TV. Typically, for the prominent evening program of Sorayuth on Channel 3, they have two guests with two different points of view. At least one is sympathetic to the PDRC.

Also, there are at least two cable TV channels that show the PDRC speeches. They have not been shut down or censored like the red shirt channels were in 2010. Sure, on Channel 11, they are not neutral, but the Channel has always been pro-government. It was the same under Abhisit.

The print media is different with a few newspapers in line with the protesters (Naew Na, Thai Post, and ASTV Manager) and others sympathetic or at least running op-eds or editorials sympathetic. The anti-Thaksin message is out there, but the problem is many people are not listening.

P.S. Finally, Patrick Winn of Global Post:

BP: It seems that interview was with John Sparks….

The problem for the protesters whether the PDRC or their militant is not only what they are saying – refusing to take part in elections, obstructing elections, threatening to take the PM into custody (Suthep said that today), and wanting the government replaced with an unelected council who will nominate the PM and re-write the constitution and other laws – but how they are saying it. They are preaching to the faithful and not trying to persuade.  It is the condescension which they normally direct at Thaksin voters, but you can just see it in the interview.

NOTE: On public property, what is Dr. Seri talking about? PTT? Or land?