Jana protests : ‘One -Size-Fits- All’ Strategy Towards Anti-Govt. Protests

Jana protests : ‘One -Size-Fits- All’ Strategy Towards Anti-Govt. Protests

Jana protests : ‘One -Size-Fits- All’ Strategy Towards Anti-Govt. Protests

Protestors from Songkhla’s Jana district rallied at Government House in Bangkok on Monday night to remind the government of their promise to them a year ago.

The protest was dispersed and protestors arrested later in the night in what was seen as an overreaction and heavy-handedness by the government. 

A year ago, the Government signed an MOU with the Jana district residents of Songkhla to conduct a Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) which was to include involvement of the residents of the district, of the industrial estate project before proceeding with the project.

A year has gone by and no sign of the SEA, prompting 36 residents from Jana district to camp out outside the Government House to remind the government of their promise. 

The protestors were promptly arrested.

It is becoming clearer that anti-government protests in any shape or form or for any reason, valid or not will not be tolerated and will face dispersion and arrests immediately.

There is no argument that the Jana district residents had a very valid reason to protest. They have every right to be concerned about what the project will do to the natural resources of their district and their home.
Besides, the government had signed a MOU.

About the MOU, who was the government representative that signed the MOU a year ago?

Secretary- General of Palang Pracharath Party, Thamanat Prompow, ex Deputy Minister of Agriculture Ministry, who was sacked from his position by PM Prayuth  Chan-o-cha earlier this year, was the government official responsible.

PM Prayuth, when asked about the MOU signed by Thamanat denied all responsibility and said “Who signed the agreement? It wasn’t approved by me or the cabinet.”

Thamanat had retaliated by saying that a fact finding committee was appointed by PM Prayuth himself, of which Thamanat was chosen to lead and sort out the issue. A cabinet meeting was held with discussions on this topic for over an hour. After the MOU was signed, Thamanat reported the results of the meeting to the Prime Minister.

Whether PM Prayuth knew about it or not, the MOU was signed by a government official in charge at that time and the government must honor it. Or else, is it to be understood that ministers and deputy ministers no longer have rights to sign documents because it would not be considered legitimate, even if it’s in their jurisdiction? 

The reason given for the dispersion is that the protestors violated the emergency decree still in place to tackle Covid -19, there were rumors that “other groups” would come and join up with the Jana protestors and that female police force was employed to arrests the protestors who were mostly women, which implied authorities weren’t using excessive force. 

However, arrests are arrests no matter if they were done with kid-glove treatment or not.
It implied what the protestors were doing is illegal and wrong. 
Before the arrests, shouldn’t government officials have engaged in dialogue with them first?

The lesson that can be taken from this incident is that the country has regressed to a point that hardships and needs of the public will not be listened to, if it in any way criticizes the workings and management of PM Prayuth’s government and that all such protests will be given a ‘One -Size-Fits- All’ treatment of arrests, dispersion and no negotiations or dialogue. 

Written By Patra Manas.