When the Pua Thai Party and the red shirt UDD leadership surrendered to the coup it put lots of people into bitter despair. So when the Free Thai Organisation was formed it became a new hope for those who want to fight back against the military junta. Their official name is the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FTHD).
They released their first statement on the 24th of June, which is the day that the Thai absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932. To see a group who dares to stand up against the coup is fresh air for those who are sick of Pua Thai. We should welcome this initiative. But although generally, their policies are quite progressive, they lack concrete solutions about how to achieve their goals.
Jarupong Ruangsuwan, the General Secretary of the FTHD is also aware that the group is quite small at the moment. He explained that the urgent task would be to expand membership. At first, most activities would be run by people who live aboard or in exile to avoid putting people in Thailand at risk. He hopes the FTHD’s membership will grow quickly.
I understand well that the FTHD is too small to have prefect answers for all of the important issues which need to be tackled in the struggle against the junta. However, if we want to take part in this movement there are a few sober questions which need to be asked.
For instance, what kind of organisation do they want to build? Where and who are the main forces to hit back at the junta? The priority must be those who live in Thailand. That is where real change will take place. The worry is that the FTHD will place too much importance on lobbying foreign governments and the UN.
What about their short term demands? What about the lèse-majesté law? What about the political prisoners? Will they determine to be seriously independent from Pua Thai and Taskin?
What are the urgent tasks that the FTHD needs to do? Organising the mass movement in Thailand is a key answer. It is difficult step but it can be done. The FTHD needs to encourage red shirts to organise themselves. They need to recruit new members and expand networks. The members need to pay fees so that the movement can be independent and survive without asking for money from the millionaires like Taksin or any other business politician.
They need to create communication channels. Under the junta this activity cannot be done openly so they need to do it under ground. This kind of tactic is not new at all for the left wing in Thailand. In the past, the Communist party of Thailand (CPT) successfully organised people in this way. When the time comes, organised groups of people can lead the struggle for themselves.
What is the role of those who live aboard? They can uncompromisingly criticise the military dictatorship. They can explore new ideas and learn lessons about fighting for democracy from other countries.
It is a foolish dream to think that the UN or any democratic nations in the west will provide meaningful support for the fight against the junta. But it is worth countering the lies of the military and telling the truth about the political situation in the world media. This can be an important task for those Thais who live abroad. The FTHD can also provide concrete links between the exiles and those who fight inside Thailand.