Govt-Sponsored Pro-Monarchy 'Rally' A Non-Event

Originally published at Siam Voices on September 24, 2010 On the eve of the red shirt protests last Sunday to commemorate the four year anniversary of the military coup and the four month anniversary of the military crackdown against the anti-government protesters, there was this little counter-protest:

At least 50,000 members of the Monarchy Defence Network from seven northeastern provinces (Nong Khai, Kalasin, Loei, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Sakon Nakhon, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani) are expected to turn up today at Thung Sri Muang, a public ground in central Udon Thani, to pledge allegiance to His Majesty the King.

"Govt calls mass gathering to counter reds", Bangkok Post, September 19, 2010

This so-called "Monarchy Defense Network", or the "Unified Volunteer Force to Protect The [Royal] Institution" if you call them literally ("รวมพลังสามัคคีอาสาสมัครปกป้องสถาบัน"), certainly sounded like a big deal and looking at this video report from Channel 7, it certainly looked impressive with all the pink shirt wearing people, a marching parade and tons of flags. More can be seen here from ThaiPBS.

But whose idea was it?

The network was formed by the Newin Chidchob-headed faction of the coalition Bhumjaithai Party, which controls the Interior Ministry. Interior Minister Chavarat Charnvirakul will preside over the gathering in which participants will pledge an oath of allegiance to the monarchy and will take part in a mass parade.

"Govt calls mass gathering to counter reds", Bangkok Post, September 19, 2010

After Bhumjaithai's recent pitch of their amnesty bill, this is another sign by the party to position politically, hoping to emancipate themselves from the Democrat-led coalition government in a run-up to a future election (if that date comes sooner or later). Also, since the interior ministry is attached to this, it is an attempt to counter the red shirts movement by showing themselves being a loyal force in the predominantly red strongholds of the northeast.

And what about the attendance? The Bangkok Post has predicted 50,000 people coming, many other news sources have reported the same number the following day. But ASTV/Manager said only 20,000 came and the national news agency NBT states that only 5,000 showed up!

Considering the comparatively mute media coverage in the following days (and since the red shirt protests on Sunday were larger and more significant), this whole occasion was a non-event. And why do they drag the monarchy into the political discussion again, where almost every political fraction are urging each other not to?