The gathering of royalists in front of the Army Club on Vibhavadi Rangsit Rd on 21 April to ‘recall power from politicians betraying the land’ has been dismissed by ASTV-Manager as an ‘ammat mob’ or a rally by the elite.
The recent visits to Laos and Cambodia by Thaksin Shinawatra, dubbed by the newspaper as the supreme leader of the new Thai state, have made the ammat unable to stay calm any longer, said ASTV-Manager in its article published on 21 April.
It said that the Saturday rally could rightly be called an ammat mob, because the people’s sector led by the People’s Alliance for Democracy had already made it clear that they had nothing to do with this rally.
According to the article, Panthep Puopongpan, PAD spokesperson, gave an explanation for the PAD’s decision not to join the rally on his Facebook page. He said that he had conducted a poll on his page asking PAD supporters whether or not they thought the PAD should hold a rally in the current situation, and the result, as of 17.20 on 17 April, was that 352 out of 538 people, or 65.43%, believed that it should not because ‘the situation was not ripe.’
Then why had there been an attempt to drag the PAD into this and who ran this ammat rally, the article asked.
According to news reports, one of the key leaders of the rally was Boworn Yasintorn, leader of the Network of Volunteer Citizens to Protect the Monarchy.
And according to a Matichon report, despite the PAD’s official claim of non-involvement, Chumphol Leelanon, a PAD coordinator in Phayao and northern Thailand, said that PAD supporters would join the rally at the Army Club to oppose the government’s proposed charter amendments.
Another key leader was the head of the multi-coloured group Dr Tul Sitthisomwong, who was described by ASTV-Manager as closely associated with the Democrat Party.
ASTV-Manager gave the names of those who were behind the ammat rally, including Admiral Bannawit Keng-rian, Squadron Leader Prasong Sunsiri, and Admiral Phajun Tampratheep.
Admiral Phajun is the head of the Office of the Gen Prem Tinsulanonda Statesman Foundation and an aide-de-camp of Prem. He was a classmate of Army Chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha at the Armed Forces Preparatory School.
Closely associated with Phajun is Admiral Bannawit, once a PAD supporter who has parted company from it with Chaiwat Sinsuwong, a fellow Santi Asoke supporter with PAD leader Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang, to form the People’s Assembly of Thailand, which was active on the issue of Preah Vihear temple. Bannawit was also a close friend of Gen Saprang Kanlayanamitr, one of the coup makers in 2006, before falling out with him when they were appointed to the board of the Telephone Organization of Thailand (TOT) after the coup.
Squadron Leader Prasong was Prime Minister Prem’s Secretary-General during the late 1990s, and was a significant figure behind PAD rallies.
ASTV-Manager admitted that these people had joined the PAD in rallies against Thaksin, but lately they had split to form various groups with differing political goals.
So when these people make their moves, the public, including a number of PAD supporters, understand that they are PAD activities, but they are not, ASTV-Manager said.
‘Any move by the PAD so far has proved how powerful it is, unlike the moves by these people, when it has been proved many times that they had too few people to make any change,’ ASTV-Manager said.
The PAD should focus on powerful moves for the single goal of reform, not for ‘minor or daily issues’, said PAD spokesperson Panthep.
ASTV-Manager also attacked their old media allies, the Nation and Thai Post, which it accused of trying to foist this rally as a PAD event.
Although the PAD announced it was dissociating itself from the rally, both newspapers still tried to connect it to PAD core leader Maj Gen Chamlong, it said.
ASTV-Manager suspected that the military was initially complicit in this rally, but when they became aware that the PAD would not take part and it was likely that not many people would show up, they therefore announced that the army would not allow the activity on its premises.
The newspaper raised the question as to how serious this ammat group was with its rally, as recently it had been widely rumoured that the relationship between Gen Prem and Thaksin had improved. Or is this just a drama set up for political negotiations, it asked.