RATCHAPRASONG, APRIL 17, 2010. United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) leaders heading the pro-democracy rally in Bangkok have today publicly slammed local and international media reports claiming it was their intention to surrender to police on May 15.
Core UDD leader Dr. Weng Tochirakarn said UDD leaders had never said they would surrender to police and all members of the leadership team were committed to continuing their peaceful protest until they had achieved their aims of having the Thai parliament dissolved and fresh elections called.
Speaking at the Ratchaprasong stage in the heart of the Bangkok shopping and business precinct, Dr. Weng said the leaders yesterday said it was their intention to send their lawyers to the police to acknowledge arrest warrants that had been issued for them, but, “at no time did we say it is our intention to surrender to the police.”
With the protest now in its 35th day, Dr. Weng said now that the Thai New Year (Songkran) celebrations were over, thousands of additional protesters were now streaming into the protest site.
“Since the early hours of Saturday morning there has been about 1,000 protesters an hour arriving from the provinces to reinforce those people who spent Songkran opposing the illegitimate government of Abhisit Vejjajiva”, he said.
Following the assault on protesters by the Thai army last Saturday, the worst in more than two decades, in which 24 people were killed and more than 800 injured, the “red-shirt” protesters have hardened their stance against the government by consolidating their protest in the heart of Bangkok’s upscale shopping district and demanding the unconditional and immediate dissolution of parliament.
Speaking from the stage earlier this evening, Dr. Weng blamed the surrender stories on inaccurate local reporting, saying that since the red-shirts began their protest on March 14 local reporters have been under incredible pressure to paint the protesters in a bad light.
“The government and some media owners have applied constant pressure on local journalists to write and broadcast inaccurate details about our protest. Today, in Thailand, the basic precepts of democracy such as a free and unhindered media and the rights to honest and unbiased reporting are controlled by the government in a verity of means.
“In many instances it is not the fault of the individual journalists, but rather pressure brought to bear on them from the elite sections of Thai society, who are opposed to seeing the power and wealth of the country distributed more fairly.
“The red-shirt movement is a movement of the people. We represent the ordinary working class Thais… the small and medium enterprise owners, the government workers, the people who construct the buildings and roads, grow the food and sweep the streets of the country – the people who are the backbone of Thai society – and there are those in power who wish to retain the wealth of this country in just a few hands.
“Surrender is the furthest thought from the minds of the red-shirt leaders. We have been inspired and encouraged by the support we have received and while the government might like to wish we will surrender, it is the last thought in our minds.
In any event, the red-shirt movement is not dependent on us or any other group of leaders. Yesterday the government tried to kill some our leaders. If they had succeeded it would have had no affect as there are hundreds of dedicated people waiting to take our place and continue the fight for a democratic Thailand where the phrai (ordinary people) have the same rights and privileges as the amart (elite)”, he added.