Former Politicians Form Anti-Coup Group in Exile

Former Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan announcing the formation of the anti-coup group, The Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FTHD)

BANGKOK — Politicians allied to the former government have formally announced an anti-coup organisation in exile on the 82nd anniversary of Thailand's democratic revolution.

The formation of the group, called The Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FTHD), was announced this morning in a video published on social media.

In the video, Jarupong Ruangsuwan, former chairman of Pheu Thai Party and Minister of Interior Affairs, read the group's founding statement in Thai, explaining that the FTHD is committed to opposing the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), which staged a coup against the Pheu Thai-led government on 22 May.

The former minister also promised that his group will seek to guarantee civil rights, promote a free and fair economy, nurture democratic values in Thai society, and improve the quality of life for Thai citizens. 

Another founding member of the group, former Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Jakrapob Penkair, read the statement in English in a separate video. Both videos, posted on Youtube, have since been blocked in Thailand. The group's Facebook account is similarly inaccessible. 

It is not clear where the videos were recorded and where the organisation will be based, but Mr. Jakrapob and Mr. Jarupong, along with a number of Redshirt activists, are believed to be currently residing in Cambodia. Mr. Jakrapob fled to Cambodia in 2009 after he was accused by conservative politicians of insulting the Thai Royal Family, while Mr. Jarupong is understood to have left the country soon after the coup.

The formation of the FTHD has been anticipated by many. In previous interviews to the foreign media, Mr. Jakrapob has hinted that he might found a group to coordinate resistance against the NCPO from abroad. He also floated the idea of forming a government-in-exile.

The NCPO has yet to publicly respond to the anti-coup organisation's founding,  but Asawin Withusiri, deputy chairman of the Democrat Party, said today that Mr. Jakrapob and Mr. Jarupong are merely struggling to win back the power they lost because of the coup.

"I agree with NCPO for stepping in and returning peace to the country," said Mr. Asawin, moments after he attended a ceremony to swear an oath of reconciliation in Pichit province. At the ceremony members of opposing political groups, summoned by the NCPO, drank sacred water and swore to lay aside their political differences.

The launching of FTHD also coincides with the 82nd anniversary of the 24 June 1932 Revolution that overthrew the Absolute Monarchy and installed a constitutional democracy in Thailand, known as Siam at the time. 

Early this morning a group of activists quietly commemorated the anniversary at Royal Plaza in Bangkok, where the 1932 revolutionaries announced the end of Absolute Monarchy 82 years ago.

Participants were told to sign their names for the police before any activity could take place, and were instructed not to "mention politics." While last year's commemoration of the 24 June Revolution was accompanied by political speeches and other colourful activities, this year the activists were forced to remember the democratic revolution with a low-profile vigil and laying of flowers. 

When an activist attempted to release balloons into the sky — to represent the quest for freedom — a high-ranking police officer intervened and told him he not could release the balloons because the objects might fall into the nearby Royal Residence.

 

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