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Interview: Activists back military, oppose government

A Bangkok Post Interview
By Ampa Santimatanedol

A leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang, explains why the PAD wants to make the next six months a tough time for Gen Surayud - and why more coups are inevitable.

Six months after the Sept 19 coup, the People's Alliance for Democracy, which orchestrated prolonged mass rallies against prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, has regrouped with a new target - military-appointed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont.

Question: What made PAD think that Gen Surayud has been helping Mr Thaksin?

Maj-Gen Chamlong: We think the prime minister hasn't exercised his legal authority to solve problems. Moreover, the Council for National Security has asked the prime minister to issue a cabinet resolution compelling all civil servants to support the Assets Scrutiny Committee's investigations.

The prime minister didn't do that. He said the ASC could seek cooperation from the government on a case-by-case basis.

That way, it's not convenient for the ASC. This is an example of the things that have cast doubt in the minds of the public. They wonder if the prime minister has made a deal with Mr Thaksin, because the prime minister declined to take any serious action on the corruption cases [that the ASC has been investigating.]

The prime minister hasn't made any serious mistake that he deserves being expelled for. He just hasn't been decisive and he hasn't yet taken any serious action to generate any quick and concrete results.

Some people did tell us that the prime minister should quit. But it's just an expression of their frustration.

We're asking the prime minister to improve his performance, not to resign. The next question is what we would do if the prime minister doesn't improve his performance. We'll then keep demanding that he does. You may ask if we'll lead a rally, but rallying isn't that pleasurable. We'll rally if it's really necessary.

Q: On what issues does PAD want the prime minister to be decisive?

The first issue is the four-pronged reasons behind the coup d'etat. The prime minister announced he'll do it, but we haven't seen anything concrete. Mr Sondhi [Limthongkul], who is in the media, noted that the prime minister's speeches abroad were so critical. But once he stepped back into Thailand, he made different kinds of remarks and did something else.

The prime minister must make it clear what he wants to do.

Q: Is it because the prime minister lacks leadership qualities?

He might be a leader who prefers compromise and has been too humble. That's what his critics say.

Q: Some say the general election won't do any good. Mr Thaksin will come back. The Thaksin regime will return. So they suggest the general election should be deferred.

Our group won't talk about a coup at the moment. Others are accusing us of advocating a coup. In fact, I don't want to call it a counter-coup, but there will continue to be more coups until political reform is carried out and most people understand and have been informed about the political situation. Whether it is sooner or later, the interval won't be that long.

Certainly, there will be more coups. The interval between the recent coup and the previous one was quite long. It's because they were still haunted by the coup and its aftermath in 1991 and 1992.

Q: What is the way out?

When politics is not stable, the answer is we have to depend on the people's innocent power. We can't depend on anything else, not the election organisers, just the people with innocent intentions. Those who hope and do something for the best interests of the country.

Q: Is it possible Mr Thaksin will return to Thailand?

Return or not, he won't be as powerful as before. His situation is much worse because the people have learned many things about him.

Q: Will there be any clashes between the PAD and other political groups?

Our group won't hold any rallies that could lead to a clash with other groups. We'll rally only when it's necessary. We rally with our own political purpose, not because of kickbacks.

Q: Should the CNS stringently enforce the law against the groups campaigning to oust Gen Prem Tinsulanonda?

It's up to them. They should know, they have opted to stage a coup. They should stick to that path to ensure peace and order. As for PAD, we have to meet the people, but in a confined place. We won't give speeches in open public. We will keep connecting to the people by providing information, hearing their opinions. Such activities can be held in a large meeting hall, for example. We'll do it every month and will meet among our group to assess the situation occasionally.

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