Thai ‘Red Shirts’ to Launch Foreign Resistance
By | June 2, 2014

Leaders of the Thai pro-democracy “red shirt” movement will this month create an organization on foreign soil to oppose the latest military junta in Bangkok, but will steer clear of Cambodia, according to Jakrapob Penkair, an exiled founding member of the group.

Mr. Jakrapob served as spokesman for former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra before his ouster in the military coup d’etat of 2006 and has been based in Cambodia in exile since the military’s violent repression of red shirt protests across Bangkok and Pattaya City in April 2009.

He said at a cafe in Phnom Penh on Thursday that the creation of an exile organization aimed at resisting the junta will soon be announced, following the Thai military’s overthrow of the elected government that had been led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr. Thaksin’s sister.

“Our main goal of the setup is to prove the new military regime in Thailand [is] illegal, anti-democracy, and extremely destructive to Thailand and to the international community. The activities will range from political-diplomatic to local-group coordinating,” Mr. Jakrapob said in a later email.

He added that the organization would be based in a Western country for diplomatic reasons and could lead to a government-in-exile.

“A government-in-exile, for us, is a natural process,” Mr. Jakrapob explained in his email. “When our organization is well-received internationally, the presence of such government is almost automatic.”

Last month’s coup was the culmination of six months of protests aimed at replacing Ms. Yingluck’s government with an unelected council, as well as years of growing tensions linked to the royal succession that will take place when the ailing 86-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej passes away.

The protests were led by the former secretary-general of the Democrat Party, which has not won a national election since 1992 but last governed between 2008 and 2011 after a highly politicized court decision.

Mr. Jakrapob said on Thursday that hundreds of red shirts had fled to Cambodia during the associated violence of the late 2000s, but that most returned after Ms. Yingluck was voted into power in 2011.

The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, the organizational arm of the red shirts, is this time discouraging supporters from coming to Cambodia to prevent diplomatic problems, Mr. Jakrapob said.

The red shirt leader himself lives in exile due to accusations of lese majeste, an offense that carries a prison term of between three and 15 years.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen, a long-time ally and friend of Mr. Thaksin, said in a speech that he would not allow the former Thai prime minister or his followers to set up a government-in-exile in Cambodia.

Mr. Hun Sen advised Mr. Thaksin to wait “a year and a half or two years,” when the military junta says it will allow for new elections.

Mr. Jakrapob said that talks are now taking place with officials from a number of Western countries about setting up their resistance to the junta.

“We are in contact with several authorities and can’t reveal now, out of respect to them,” Mr. Jakrapob said in his email. “[T]he general reception is very encouraging. It is quite apparent that almost all democratic countries / authorities are uniformly dismayed with the military takeover.”

Mr. Jakrapob also said he expected to be named secretary-general of the yet unnamed body and that Mr. Thaksin will not play a direct role.

“No,” Mr. Jakrapob said on whether the former prime minister will hold a formal position in the foreign resistance to the military junta.

“Former PM Thaksin is regarded as an ally for democracy pursuit in Thailand.”

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The Kandal Provincial Court on Tuesday tried two opposition CNRP officials and their lawyer—two of them in absentia—over a case dating back to 2011 that was abruptly scheduled a week ago.

A woman was recovering in hospital Tuesday after being doused with acid in an attack in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet City on Monday as police said they are searching for the attacker and a motive for the year’s second acid attack case.

Seven opposition CNRP lawmakers-elect and a party official who are charged with leading an insurrection and incitement to commit a felony were released on bail from Prey Sar Prison at about 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy emerged from a five-hour meeting in Phnom Penh on Tuesday with a deal for the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers-elect to end their boycott of the National Assembly in exchange for an overhaul of the electoral commission, which they accuse of rigging last year’s election for the CPP.

Two villagers embroiled in a long-running land dispute with the well-connected KDC company were charged Tuesday with intentional destruction of property and causing injuries during clashes with workers at the disputed development site in Kompong Chhnang province last week.

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