17 July 2024

Former red-shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan has shocked political observers by launching stinging criticisms of his former party Pheu Thai and its patriarch, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Jatuporn demanded that the core opposition party issue a public declaration that it would not form an alliance with the ruling Palang Pracharath Party after the general election later this year.

He also accused fugitive former premier Thaksin of repeatedly betraying the red shirts, who were his loyal supporters and helped vote his proxy Pheu Thai into power.

Political analysts say Jatuporn’s allegations are likely to undermine Pheu Thai’s hopes of a landslide election victory this year.

His unexpected attack on Pheu Thai and Thaksin has left Jatuporn under fire from critics, who accuse him of aiding embattled Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – whether intentionally or not.

‘Unintentional ally’

Jatuporn, 57, has hit back by saying that it was in fact Thaksin who acted as an “unintentional ally” of Prayut by declaring he would return to Thailand this year without serving jail time. He said Thaksin’s announcement had “resurrected” Prayut from political death.

Formerly chairman of the pro-Thaksin United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka the red shirts, Jatuporn said that Pheu Thai had been in government for just a few years before Thaksin wasted its election victory by having it push a 2013 bill to grant amnesty to anyone involved in the political conflict – including those accused of murder and corruption. Many viewed the bill as a deliberate move to benefit Thaksin.

It led to massive street protests against the government led by Thaksin’s youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. The protests and ensuing violence culminated in a military coup in May 2014 – which Jatuporn said resulted in eight “wasted years” for Thailand under coup-leader Prayut’s rule.

Jatuporn warned that history would repeat itself if Pheu Thai returned to power and made the same amnesty move again.

Instead, Thaksin should follow the example of many other Asian leaders convicted for corruption and return to serve his time, he added.

Neither Thaksin nor Pheu Thai replied directly to Jatuporn’s allegations. Thaksin simply responded by saying he had been “barked at” repeatedly over the past 16 years and did not care about more recent barking.

Ancient loose cannon that can go dud or else

Years of dissatisfaction

Jatuporn said his frustration with Thaksin had grown during years of broken promises and insults from the ex-PM.

“The long list of legal cases against me all stemmed from Thaksin,” the activist-politician said, referring to the criminal and civil charges he has faced in connection with his role as a key red-shirt leader.

“Thaksin is not a fighter, or a democrat, or a spiritual leader. His real self is that of a merchant who only thinks of profits,” Jatuporn said.

He launched his attack against Thaksin and Pheu Thai during his daily talk show with Nitithorn Lamlua, a human rights lawyer and yellow-shirt leader, broadcast on the Facebook page “Prachachon Kon Thai” (Thai Citizens).

The two unlikely allies last year co-founded a political pressure group called “Kana Lomruam Prachachon” (Uniting People Group) to demand Prayut’s resignation after eight years in power.

Long-time supporter

In 1998, Jatuporn co-founded the Thai Rak Thai Party along with Thaksin and others.

After Thaksin’s government was overthrown in the 2006 military coup, Jatuporn co-founded a group called the Democratic Alliance against Dictatorship to campaign against the junta. The group expanded and was renamed the UDD.

After Thai Rak Thai was dissolved for electoral fraud, Jatuporn joined its reincarnation, the People Power Party, which won the 2007 general election and formed a government. Jatuporn duly entered Parliament for the first time as a party-list MP.

When People Power was dissolved and a new government led by the rival Democrat Party was formed, Jatuporn led a series of anti-government protests along with other UDD leaders in 2009 and 2010. He later joined Thaksin’s new proxy, Pheu Thai, and in 2011 was elected as a party-list MP for the second time.

Jatuporn’s role as protest leader attracted numerous criminal charges and eventually saw him serve 19 months in jail for defaming former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva during the 2010 crackdown on red-shirt protesters. Jatuporn had branded the Democrat ex-leader a murderer and accused him of “ordering the lethal shooting of protesters”.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk