BANGKOK — A pro-establishment lawmaker and an activist recently detained for leading protests against the government met for a rare face-to-face debate in a primetime TV talk show Wednesday.
Phalang Pracharath MP Parina Kraikupt and activist Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon sparred on the “Straight Talking with Jomquan” show on Thairath TV, moderated by host Jomquan Laopetch.
Parina, notorious for her verbal – and sometimes toxic – attacks on those who disagree with her, repeatedly denounced the activists’ demands and warned them not to touch the monarchy, for which she used the euphemism “the culture that has been passed down to us.”
“Article 112 will not be amended,” Parina said. “We will not touch the culture that has been passed down to us. …Why are you asking for impossible things? …Learn to be respectful of things we cannot touch. Do not be selfish.”
Parina insisted that the pro-democracy activists were only 100,000 in number, a minority compared to the “tens of millions” who wanted absolutely no change in the government or monarchy.
“Don’t act like a revolution. It’s impossible to change the ruling system,” Parina said. “You have to understand what ‘majority’ means. You can’t just chase out people that have been elected into office; we would be in a loop,” said the MP of a party led by a general who threw the 2014 coup.
Parina, 44, constantly interrupted Jomkwan and Patsaravalee, 25, and drove the show into five minutes overtime by countering the activist’s remarks.
Without prompting, Parina also made many mentions to Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, deposed leaders of the Future Forward movement that the royalist camp often blamed for the nation’s ills.
“Thanathorn would never be able to be PM, even if he was not disqualified. He has no abilities. If he did become PM, and coronavirus happened, everyone would be bankrupt and millions would be dead,” Parina said. “If Thanathorn was PM, would you even come out to protest?
Parina, who had attended a royalist rally on Oct. 14 near the Democracy Monument, said that the pro-democracy protests should try to solve problems in Parliament.
“This demonstration is the worst,” Parina said. “Going on the streets does nothing to accomplish your goals. …Can you go protest in a sports stadium or something so that you don’t cause inconvenience and annoyance? And do not use rude words to attack others and ask for permission from the police before protesting.”
Parina said that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha will not resign – one of the activists’ main requests – and instead said that he would stay for a “long time.”
“There are so many problems right now. With these many problems, he has to stay for a long time. If he wins again, then you must accept it,” Parina said to Patsaravalee. “It’s impossible for him to resign. Everyone wants him to keep working.”
When Patsaravalee talked about how the previous election had 250 senators who tipped the scales and gave Gen. Prayuth power, Parina said “Those 250 senators are not from Gen. Prayuth. This is fake news. They were chosen.”
“Who picked them in the end?” Jomquan said.
“I wasn’t there, so I don’t know,” Parina said.
“According to the process, it was by Gen. Prayut,” Jomquan answered for her.
Patsaravalee also discussed the protesters’ three demands: for Gen. Prayut to resign, a new constitution, and monarchy reforms.
“Problems about the role of the monarchy have been around for a long time, but never talked about in a public space,” she said. “But protesters want this to be talked about. And it must be talked about, so we can find a solution.”
“His legitimacy is completely gone. Gen. Prayut must resign. Citizens do not trust him to work anymore,” Patsaravalee added.
In response to Parina’s criticisms about the protests causing inconvenience for others, Patsaravalee said that their previous rallies in university campuses and other private venues drew no attention from the government.
“Protesting is an international human right allowed in democracies. We should be able to criticize the government,” Patsaravalee said. “For example, my friend who protested in Germany said that police even helped direct traffic away from them to help them.”
“Since society doesn’t allow us to talk, we have to express ourselves through protest, since it is the only way,” she went on. “We have tried asking for permission, but we would never be able to get authorized to protest anywhere.”
“We need there to be a change of society, not to make society chaotic, but to make a stable government, with a new Constitution,” Patsaravalee said. “To viewers watching at home: if you don’t understand why we have come out, come to the protest and we can exchange our ideas.”
Finally, Jomquan asked Parina if she could help get Gen. Prayuth on the show.
“You need to invite him yourself,” she said to Jomkwan.
At the end of the show, Patsaravalee wai Parina and Jomquan, but Parina did not wai Patsaravalee. The gesture could be interpreted as a hostility between the two, or a simple cultural thing – Parina is nearly 20 years older than her rival and therefore is not expected to wai someone younger.