3 Demands or 10? Ideological Rift Looms Over Protest Leaders

Activist Parit Chiwarak at the anti-government rally on Aug. 16, 2020.
Activist Parit Chiwarak at the anti-government rally on Aug. 16, 2020.

BANGKOK — One of the leaders behind a recent protest dismissed on Monday the speculation that a disagreement broke out within the group about how far their demands should go.

Rumors of an internal rift surfaced after prominent student dissidents Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, who pushed for a more extensive goal for the movement, were seen walking away from the protest on Sunday. The pair also did not speak onstage, unlike many of the past rallies.

Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, a chief organizer of the protest, said he and Parit ran separate movements that are independent of each other, but there was no ideological split between them.

“Parit did not appear on stage because he didn’t ask to speak and there’s a time constraint,” Tattep said in an interview. “We’re still friends.”

The leaders of Sunday’s rally repeated the three core demands they made at the July 18 rally, without making any direct reference to the ten demands for reforms of a certain institution issued by Parit’s group on Aug. 10.

Tattep had said the government will continue to be the main target for his group.

Even civil rights lawyer and activist Arnon Nampa, who first introduced the call for a reform of the much-revered institution, said on stage that he was told by organizers to stick to the original demands.

“I’ve been asked to stick to the three demands,” Arnon said. “But I declare here that we will continue to dream, and spread this dream to all brothers and sisters across the country that we want to see the monarchy above the politics.”

The three-point ultimatum called for a new election, a new charter, and an end to intimidation of activists.

Panusaya, the campaigner who advocated reforms beyond the government at the Aug. 10 gathering, said her group will continue to pursue the agenda at other venues.

She said her group spent a few minutes at Sunday’s rally before having to leave because of Parit’s asthma symptoms.

“We’re independent of each other,” Panusaya said in a statement on her Twitter. “Although our means are different, we all have the same end.”

Note: Some details were withheld from this article due to legal concerns