Ruling party ‘uncomfortable’ with idea of possible crackdown on student protests

Members of the ruling party told Thai Enquirer on Friday that they are uncomfortable with the idea that the student protests could end in a bloody crackdown especially if the army gets involved.

Up to 10,000 students gathered on campus at Thammasat University – Rangsit on Monday to call for a change in government with many students saying that the Prayut Chan-ocha administration is undemocratic. It was the latest anti-government rally in a series of nationwide student-led protests that has gripped the country over the past two months.

The students are calling for a rewrite of the military-drafted constitution, the dissolution of parliament and the end to the harassment of activists by the state. As the rallies continue, many speakers are beginning to touch upon the role of the Thai monarchy in politics.

It was the last issue that has many right-wing commentators, news media and politicians arguing that a line had been crossed and prompted an internal discussion within the ruling Palang Pracharat party on ways to end the student protests.

Officially, the government and the ruling party have said that they will hold forums to hear out the protesters and try to find a diplomatic, negotiated solution to the crisis.

Privately, members of the ruling party have expressed concern that if Thailand’s security forces get involved, the student protests could end with a bloody crackdown by the state.

Previous protests by anti-establishment forces like the red shirt protests in 2010 and the anti-coup protest in 1992 ended with the army shooting civilians on the street.

The last time that students protested, en-masse, the army and right wing paramilitary forces lynched and killed dozens of students in a bloody crackdown on October 6, 1976.

Police officers stand guard in front of the Democracy Monument during a pro-government and pro-monarchy rally demanding the protection of traditional Thai values in downtown Bangkok on July 30, 2020. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)

“We want a negotiated settlement of course, we do not want to harm the students they are our future,” one senior Palang Pracharat MP told Thai Enquirer by phone.

“The last thing we want is for their to be violence or blood to the streets, so it will take restraint on the students part and the government as well.”

According to the senior MP, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, many members within the government would feel uncomfortable and would find it hard to continue to serve the government should there be a bloody crackdown.

“We do not want the army to come out against the student, the situation would then not be within control and there could be bloodshed,” he said.

Other senior figures within the ruling party and members that have recently left the party agree with the assessment.

“There are certainly military members of the party who would have no issue ordering the army out onto the street but you have to remember many members come from civilian backgrounds and are afraid to tarnish their reputation,” one former PPRP member said.

“They don’t want to be another Abhisit [Vejjajiva] or Suthep [Thaugsuban] and be known to the people as murderers,” the former member added.


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