BANGKOK — The man who helped lead an ultraroyalist movement that paved the way for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s rise to power in 2014 said on Wednesday he would take up action against the ongoing pro-democracy protests, without giving any details.
Suthep Thaugsuban, former Deputy Prime Minister and ex-leader of the street protests that gripped Thailand from 2013 to 2014, said he would no longer sit on the sidelines after seeing videos of demonstrators shouting slogans at a royal motorcade earlier on Wednesday.
“I have decided to do my duty as a loyal citizen to defend the monarchy,” he wrote in a brief statement on Facebook. “I’d like to invite my brethren and fellow believers to prepare themselves to rise up and defend the monarchy.”
He did not elaborate on what kind of action will be taken. The protesters are demanding the government’s resignation, a new constitution that promotes democratic rules, and reforms of the monarchy.
Suthep served as deputy chairman of the Democrat Party until late 2013, when he resigned from his post and founded an organization called the People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King as Head of State to lead protests against then-PM Yingluck Shinawatra.
His movement, known as the People’s Democracy Reform Committee in official English name, shut down major roads and intersections in Bangkok until the military seized power in May 2014 with a stated aim of restoring peace and order. About 20 people died throughout the months of clashes between pro- and anti-Yingluck protesters.
Speaking to reporters earlier today from Ratchadamnoen Avenue, where he sat with other supporters of the monarchy clad in yellow shirts, Suthep also said he was not intending to take up any activism. The former activist insisted he was only present to receive royal motorcades set to pass through the avenue.
One of the motorcades, carrying Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn, ended up pushing through protesters gathering just outside Government House, causing them to flash the three-finger salute and shout at the convoy.
After news of the commotion broke, another prominent royalist on Wednesday night made a vague call for action while invoking the massacre of students in 1976.
“If I remember, when the Oct. 6, 1976, incident [took place], the causes were even smaller than what happened today,” songwriter Nitipong Honark wrote online. “Please do something. The true Thais start to find it hard to breathe.”