Pro-election activists give a three-finger salute at a briefing at Thammasat University on Saturday. (Photo by Thiti Wongmontha)

Pro-election activists have stepped up their campaign by setting a clear timetable for rallies until May and challenging politicians to make up their minds whether to stand alongside the people or the military.

Politicians have been conspicuous by their absence at pro-election rallies so far, either to avoid touching off colour-coded battles or out of fear of the junta’s wrath.

Leaders of various groups demanding that the general election be held this year outlined their position at a briefing at Thammasat University on Saturday.

Sirawich “Ja New” Seritiwat of the New Democracy Group started by reminding people of their goals. 

“What we ask for is nothing new. It’s the basic right that we have been deprived of by the coupmakers for four years,” he said. “We want an election so we have a say in the country’s future.

“It’s time for people to exercise their rights to decide their own fate and future instead of following the directions set by the ‘Five Rivers’, which only benefit their cronies. They must stop delaying the election and power succession. The polls must be held this year.”

The Five Rivers is the name junta leaders have given to the combined executive, legislative and security branches dominated by military personnel since the coup in 2014.

Prospects for a November election appear increasingly remote as military-appointed legislators continue to tweak the necessary organic laws. If they are passed, a vote could take place in February or March next year. But the laws could still be scrapped, at which point all bets are off.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Friday that all relevant parties, including the Election Commission and political parties, would hold talks in June about a viable poll date.

While the authorities dither, people need to step forward to show their strength, said Rangsiman Rome of the Democracy Restoration Group.

“We have tried different ways but the powers-that-be refused to step down,” he said at the Thammasat gathering. “We believe the only way to accomplish the goals is for people to show their strength so the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] realises who really has the power.”

Mr Rangsiman said the next gathering of pro-poll activists would take place at Lan Ya Mo in Nakhon Ratchasima at 5pm on Sunday, followed by a rally at the Thammasat Tha Phra Chan campus at 3pm next Saturday.

Big events are also planned for March 10 and 14, with locations to be announced later.

There will be no activities in April but in May the groups plan to gather every Saturday, and to stage a non-stop rally from May 19-22. “We may stay on until the power is returned to the people,” Mr Rangsiman said.

“This is the roadmap of the people, which is clearer than the NCPO’s.”

He insisted the campaign was not personal. “We have no enemy. Even though we criticise the armed forces, all we want is to separate bad waters from good,” he said.

“Thais are ready to cast their ballots. The one who’s not ready is the NCPO. Nobody wants to assemble and risk being put in jail. We only ask them to keep their word.

“For years, Thailand has been mired in conflicts, the like of which I’ve never seen before. But that doesn’t mean we must leave them as a legacy to our children.”

Mr Rangsiman appealed to all groups to join the campaign, including politicians.

“It doesn’t matter what colour you are. We welcome everyone. We also invite all politicians to join the people’s fight,” he said. “We’re colourless. All we ask is that you make up your mind whose side you’re on — the military or the people?

“I ask that question in particular to Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban and Korn Chatikavanij [of the Democrat Party]. Are you ready to join us?” 

News Reporter

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