Thailand: Why Pitak Siam Protest Failed

The anti-government group Pitak Siam (Protect Thailand) vowed to mobilize one million people in the streets of Bangkok last November 24 but managed to gather only 20,000. The rally turned violent and the crowd dispersed in the afternoon without achieving their goal of toppling the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

According to the group, Yingluck has to be removed from power becauseshe is corrupt and a ‘puppet’ of her brother Thaksin, Thailand’s former prime minister who was ousted by a coup in 2006. Yingluck is also accused of disrespecting the King who is a beloved political figure in Thailand.

Bloggers, journalists and academics have written about the failure of Pitak Siam and the political impact of the protest.

Thai riot police clash with demonstrators during a protest organized by Pitak Siam. photo by Piti A Sahakorn. Copyright @Demotix. (11/24/2012)

Global Voices author Aim Sinpeng underscores the real motive of the group in holding the protest:

But this rally is not about the Yingluck government, or the Red Shirts for that matter. Rather, it is an attempt of the former Yellow Shirt forces to recalibrate an identity and position in Thai society

At this stage, the Pitak Siam rallies failed on a number of fronts, be it in terms of leadership, numbers and coordination among various groups. Nonetheless their continued opposition to the “Thaksin regime” and zealous efforts to preserve their vision of royalist-conservative Thailand will not be abated.

Many members and leaders of Red Shirts are associated with Thaksin. The Yellow Shirts are anti-Thaksin groups which organized massive rallies in 2008.

Nick Nostitz covered the rally and shared his observations:

All together, I was happy and relieved that the level of violence on the day was not too bad. There was enough action to raise the adrenaline, but no serious violence, and no really bad injuries as far as I I could see. I thought that the police was very restrained in their response, and disciplined, and I could see that they must have improved their training over the past years. Also the violence from the side of the protesters was not as bad as I have seen in many of the incidents over recent years.

Andrew Spooner noted the failure of global news networks in presenting the ‘anti-democratic’ demands of Pitak Siam:

I’d also ask why, once again, the international media, failed, almost completely, to represent the facts about Pitak Siam. This group had made it clear, repeatedly and publicly, their aim was to destroy democracy and freeze Thailand yet not one foreign correspondent reported that…Why is that? What’s wrong with reporting some facts? Or do said facts get lost as correspondents desperately cling to some forlorn “balance” based on a highly dubious and contrived “neutrality”?

It was a ‘poorly organized’ rally, according to Bangkok Pundit:

The closure of various roads around the protest site and advance news of possible violence probably scared some people away – it may encouraged others to come – but are there any credible stories of large numbers of people being not able to attend?

The rally didn’t achieve its lofty goal of getting rid of the government. The protesters clearly had the momentum after the larger than expected turn-out last month, but they really needed to build on that this time… In this case, the rally failed to meet expectations.

You travel a few hours to get there and well, it fizzles out. How motivated will you be to attend the next time? From all reports and from listening to some of the speeches, the rally was poorly organized with few charismatic speeches.

The Lost Boy discussed the failure of the rally:

The group has no real ideas on how it is going to see this government toppled, short of a military coup. Their protest was called off when it rained and it was evident no more people were coming, which led to some of those in attendance turning their frustrations on their own leadership, highlighting the lack of group cohesion.

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