Reds struggling under charter : New chief
Inactive since the military crackdown on May 19, the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship (DAAD) came back to life with the naming of Thida Tawornsate Tojirakarn, the wife of jailed co-leader Weng Tojirakarn, as the acting chairperson of the movement on Wednesday.
Tida, a former headmaster of its political school and a former communist insurgent, speaks to The Nation's Pravit Rojanaphruk and Budsarakham Sinlapalavan about the red shirts and their path ahead. Excerpts.
Q : How will the DAAD be different under your leadership?
A : Our organisation is policy-based, which is the result of meetings of people from different walks of life, who may disagree though we cannot impose our ideas on others. For example, realising a democratic system with the King as the head of state while power will rest in the hands of the people. Even with this kind of written objective, we are attacked as wanting to overthrow the monarchy.
Q : Your opponents see red shirts as essentially anti-monarchist and a violent movement. What's your view?
A : Non-violent action is very important for us. I regret that when I ran the [political] school I did not lecture on the subject myself. In fact I wanted to invite a peace activist to help teach though the person must be on the side of the people.
[As for anti-monarchist branding] you must understand who make up red shirts. We cannot use the view of one or two [red shirts] to brand 80,000 or a hundred thousand others. red shirts are people who oppose the  military coup and the amataya (old bureaucratic elites). But even in one's family, not all think alike. Not even 5 per cent [of the red shirts are anti-monarchists]. Ninety-eight to ninety-nine per cent of DAAD members agree with our policy of fighting for a democracy with the King as the head of state.
We must acknowledge that the current king has what Thais call barami [reserved power] because of His Majesty's work. In Britain, there are a number of people who disagree with its monarchy but why is it that they are not in trouble? [The anti-monarchist remarks among red shirts] come from people who want to pick a fight. Some, like Ji [Ungparkorn] is not even in Thailand. They may be red shirts, but they are not DAAD member.
Q : How transparent and participatory is the selection process that put you at the helm of the DAAD? And what do you think of papers that chiefly refer to you as "wife of Weng"?
A : Reporters and re-writers must be educated. Did these people [who branded me as merely wife of Weng] have the chance to follow my work? I'm in a caretaker capacity. It was a resolution of the former leaders.
There was no election. Veera [Musigapong, who was chairperson of DAAD] cannot give an interview [as part of the bailing agreement]. He even has to seek permission to visit a temple outside Bangkok. If nobody comes to the rescue, there will be anarchy. We must proceed with our work. It's been six months [since the crackdown]. We do not want to lose the greatest people's movement since there was a people's movement.
They chose me because they accepted my past work, academics or otherwise. Secondly, they chose me through their hearts and because they trust me. Whether this is right or not, I do not know.
Since the crackdown in May, some red shirts such as Sombat Boonngamanong or Somyos Preuksakasemsuk came out to revive the movement and became prominent. Sombat, in particular, criticised the DAAD for being top down and leaving no space for ordinary red shirts to participate beyond that of listening to their leaders' speeches.
In fact I know Sombat though some of the things he said resulted from his lack of information. But we don't need to inform everyone. This fight is a people's fight and not a kind of stage act. But we won't give out an interview that would spread the conflicts among the people.
It was good that he came out courageously [after May 19]. We considered his group our alliance but not part of the DAAD.
Q : What is the future political prospect of Thaksin Shinawatra. Is he funding the DAAD?
A : We depend largely on donations but I would not know if someone privately went to seek money from him. I can assure you that I personally, and Weng, have never received a single baht from him… Well, we're not his minions.
Q : What about Thaksin's political future?
A : It's going to be tough. Look at the Constitution Court. But we will fight even if we have only bare hands.
Some fear that there may be yet another coup to pre-empt a possible Pheu Thai Party electoral victory.
We are still living under the  military coup with [Constitution Court] judges being appointed after the coup and with appointed senators as well as a prime minister who was "deemed as most suitable". As long as the Democrat Party is not in a disadvantage, there's no reason to stage a coup. So the coup is still with us all the while and when Pheu Thai looks set to win the election, they will find a way to prevent it. They may stage a coup or revive Sondhi's [Limthongkul] People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). The PAD mob can only succeed when the Democrat Party collaborates.
There may be a new military coup but I don't think it will be easy. red shirts won't put up with this. But I won't tell you yet what we will do.
Q : Is there anything you would you like to convey to the ruling elite who are on the other side of the political divide?
A : Guns may be able to keep people's heads low, but not forever. So please do try to understand that society must change and become part of the change.
Believe me, the people won't give up this time. No matter how many more you kill or put in prison.