By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer
BANGKOK — First came the soldiers early in the morning to his home. Then a dozen menacing men in civilian clothes trailed and heckled him as he campaigned in public areas.
As political activist Anurak Jeantawanich found out, that’s what one gets for campaigning – even mildly – against the junta-sponsored draft charter. Despite both happening during the most recent of his serial Sunday campaigns, Anurak said last night he will not stop going out to urge people to vote against the proposed constitution, though he may be even cagier about his plans.
Anurak said he will be more cautious and only inform journalists of where he’ll be hours before staging his sixth weekly campaign on Sunday.
On Sunday, Anurak had set up in front of the Dusit Thani Hotel on Bangkok’s Silom Road when a large group of men began to harass them.
“We were pressured to the point where we had to stop and relocate our activities to Siam Paragon before being trailed and pressured,” said Anurak, who is better known as “Ford Red Path.”
While a number of hostile-looking men took photos of Anurak and his group, he said one of the men with close-cropped hair asked him: “Why are you protesting when the country is already peaceful?”
Asked if he thought they were soldiers out of uniform, Anurak declined to speculate.
“I don’t want to guess,” he said.
Unlike the four soldiers in uniform who “politely" visited his home in Samut Prakan province earlier that morning to inquire about his activities, Anurak felt intimidated by the dozen-or-so men who showed up later that day to follow him around.
Political activist Anurak Jeantanawich displays stickers he made opposing and supporting the draft charter during a Sunday visit by soldiers to his home in Bangkok. Photo: Courtesy Anurak Jeantanawich
“They looked really threatening,” he said. “They were well-built and had short haircuts.”
Than Rittiphan, a student activist and member of the New Democracy Movement, said he recognized one of the men as being among those sent to roughhouse students at a protest last year in Bangkok.
Aware that his every move is being watched, Anurak said Thailand confronts a dilemma as it heads toward voting on the nation’s legal future framework as soon as July.
“Will people choose to be silent due to fear, or will they come out and campaign in accordance to their rights under the law that allows political assembly of no more than four persons?” he said.
Trying to walk a fine line between campaigning against the draft charter and not antagonizing the junta, Anurak urged people on Facebook not to criticize the uniformed soldiers sent to visit his home.
“May I ask Facebook friends to refrain from criticizing and pointing fingers at the soldiers, please?” he wrote Sunday. “This is for the good atmosphere of the continued [campaign] activities.”
Besides distributing 'Vote No' stickers he also decided to print some 'Vote Yes' stickers supporting the draft charter to distribute at his events to show he’s not trying to force anyone to agree with him.
A group of a dozen or more men with close-cropped hair monitored and photographed political activisit Anurak Jeantawanich Sunday in Bangkok.