Seri Thai fails a crucial test

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Last week Seri Thai in Europe failed a crucial test. It is extremely unfortunate that the organisation failed to send a team to protest against Thai junta head Prayut, when he appeared, like some misplaced monster, at the international meeting in Italy.

A few months ago I wrote an article welcoming the establishment of Seri Thai, but also warned that it would have to organise Thais within Thailand if it was serious about overthrowing the military junta and the backward legacy that this junta wishes to leave behind after it eventually steps down.

Yet all the declarations, interviews and actions of the leading lights in Seri Thai indicate that the organisation’s only priority is lobbying foreign governments. Such lobbying is important and many of us living in Europe have contacted local politicians with our concerns about Thai democracy. We did this without the help of Seri Thai. But no amount of lobbying of untrustworthy western powers is going to bring democracy back to Thailand. The key factors is organising a mass movement within Thailand and that organisation has to be done underground right now until conditions improve.

What is most distressing and disappointing is that even on the issue of lobbying foreign governments Seri Thai has failed miserably in the case of Prayut’s visit to Italy last week. Now, I understand that many Thais, including myself, have to work and earn a living and may not have had enough annual leave or funds to make the trip to Italy, but there are people in Seri Thai or the European redshirts who do have funds and time and protests against the junta have been held by Thais in many countries in the past.

Therefore what is even more disappointing is that this failure was a symptom of gross sectarianism and a failure to unite prodemocracy Thais in Europe. I have often argued against this sectarianism in meetings and in articles written in Thai, but so far it is falling on deaf ears.

What we need more than ever is a non-sectarian united front against the dictatorship which is inclusive and tolerates differences of opinions. It is not too late to build such a united front if people are willing to change.