Junta Derails Redshirt Leader’s Cultural Tour of Indonesia

The ninth-century temple of Borobudur, near the ancient Indonesian capital of Yogyakarta on Java. Photo: F Mira / Flickr

By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Senior Staff Writer

BANGKOK — A leader of the Redshirt movement today described the junta as rude and pathetic for refusing to allow her out of the country for a tour of cultural sites in Indonesia.

Thida Thavornsaet Tojirakarn would be off to visit Borobudur and other sites on Thursday, were her plans not wrecked by the junta, which she accuses of delaying a decision until she was forced to cancel the trip.

“This is a senseless show of power. It’s irrational,” the 72-year-old said, fuming. “They don’t know the limits of their [dictatorial] power. It’s crazy!”

Thida, a former chairwoman of Redshirt umbrella group United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, was among those summoned for detention and “attitude adjustment” in the aftermath of the 2014 coup.

At the time, she was compelled to seek permission to travel from the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order. The process usually takes five working days, with a formal application filed for consideration by senior generals who make the decision.

The military government has restricted travel of a slew of critics and members of the opposition, going so far as to cancel the passports of several, including a former education minister. No clear reason has been articulated, but junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha has described it as punishment for criticizing his regime, which he deems tantamount to sowing social conflict.

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Thida applied for permission April 2 to visit Indonesia on the tour which was to include the old capital of Yogyakarta on Java and Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali.

She said she was kept waiting. Growing anxious as the trip approached, Thida said she called for an update and was told by a “rude colonel” that if she pressed them, she would have to keep on waiting.

“They think like loonies,” she said. “What are they afraid of? It’s pathetic. I just want to go on a cultural tour. This is because they have power and they think they can just do anything.”

After two weeks, she canceled the trip on April 18 and publicly denounced the junta on Facebook for not giving a timely answer. She had no choice, she said, because the tour organizer required an advance deposit be paid.

“If they want to play hard, I can play hard too,” Thida said.

One day after posting her strongly worded message, Thida was notified by a polite junta rep that permission had been granted. “I asked them, ‘Why tell me now? It’s too late,’” she said.