GUEST CONTRIBUTION by Kati Fithian and Sam Ryals
KHON KAEN – Shortly after noon today, Governor Somsak Suwansujarit affirmed his support for the beleaguered Yingluck government.
“Thailand is a democratic country with the King as Head of the State, and the government comes from elections, from the people, throughout the country.”
Governor Somsak continued, “In a democracy there is a forum, or space for people to come together to exchange ideas, without using force to overthrow the democratic system.”
His statement came in response to Khon Kaen red shirt leaders’ call for support of the government.
Ms. Sabina Shah, accompanied by 40 other local red shirt leaders, delivered a letter to the governor and said, “The government has problems, because of the thing that Suthep has announced. We have tried to analyze what Suthep is saying [and we think] he has announced himself as a traitor.”
She further said, “We support the government. And we want to tell the government to keep on working its best to give them our support.”
After making the statement, Ms. Sabina held up an announcement of Mr. Suthep’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee (previously called the People’s Committee for Thailand’s Absolute Democracy under the Constitutional Monarchy), tore it up, and trampled it under foot.
Governor Somsak shared his thanks to the red shirt representatives, “By coming here in order to express what you are feeling really reflects the heart of democracy. In our country, [during] this moment, we want people who have the heart of democracy to come out and express their ideas for the people to know.”
Last night, anti-government leader Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban called on supporters to close down provincial halls throughout the country. However, Khon Kaen Provincial Hall was up and running with about 200 police and army security personnel present.
There was no sign of anti-government protesters.
The Governor, accompanied by 20 security officers, spoke with red shirt leaders and agreed to pass the letter of support on to the Prime Minister, saying it will “give her encouragement to pass this crisis.”
Commenting on recent anti-government actions during his statement, the Governor said, “using force to take over government offices, which are the places where people come and get services, is not the right thing to do according to the law.”
“The government officers have a job, a responsibility, to follow the orders and policies from the government that comes from the democratic election” said Mr. Somsak in an interview with The Isaan Record after his statement. “We don’t have responsibility to follow people who use mass power to solve problems.”
Looking forward, Khon Kaen provincial government, he said, will “continue to be a good example in upholding democracy with the King as the Head of the State. We will try to uphold and follow the rules and regulations that were already written; problem solving by peaceful means, not trying to solve problems with force.”
When asked what he would say to Mr. Suthep, the governor responded, “Tell him to go back to the democratic system of governance; don’t create wrong beliefs or values in solving the problems by using force because it is not the way of democracy.”
For the time being, Khon Kaen red shirts are playing a waiting game, said Ms. Sabina. “Right now we are trying to observe what Mr. Suthep is going to do next. He is clearly a traitor and trying to take over power, but the government can still go on with its work. We really have to see what is going to happen.”
Ms. Sabina concluded the gathering today by announcing, “Delivering the letter is our primary mission, and then we go home. We are red people, we love democracy. Whatever we do, please do things under the law. Be calm. And observe what Mr. Suthep will do next. So today we came here to encourage the prime minister.”
Additional reporting by Emily Parker.