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Anti-coup group’s home ‘elsewhere’

Anti-coup protesters take part in a gathering in Bangkok last month
Anti-coup protesters take part in a gathering in Bangkok last month. Opposition is building from a spectrum of Thailand’s divided society to defy the new junta, which overthrew the government in May. AFP

Anti-coup group’s home ‘elsewhere’

Thai dissident Jakrapob Penkair says an anti-coup organisation has been formed to fight Thailand’s reigning junta, but that Cambodia won’t be its base.

“We have jointly founded the organisation to fight the dictatorship,” Jakrapob wrote on his official Facebook page on Wednesday, referring to the military takeover that occurred in May.

Thanks to an influx of global support, Jakrapob, who has been interviewed by several media outlets in Phnom Penh in recent weeks, said the newly minted organisation will work for the “freedom and liberty of Thai people” from the military dictatorship.

In an email to the Post this week, Jakrapob said he was not a permanent resident in Cambodia and that the Kingdom’s officials “had no policy to support [his] state of exile or to get [a] resistance movement established”.

“I have not chosen Cambodia as a place of exile just as a transit [location] to different countries,” Jakrapob said.

Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Kuoy Kuong reiterated yesterday that authorities had no evidence of any local activities in support of the “red shirts” – those who back ousted Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Jakrapob, a former spokesman for Yingluck’s brother and former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was himself ousted in a 2006 coup, has been in and out of Cambodia since 2009, fleeing charges of instigating violence and insulting the Thai monarch. The latter charge can carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Last week, Thailand’s junta, the National Council for Peace and Order, called on all those accused of insulting the king, including Jakrapob, to turn themselves in by Monday or face harsher penalties. In the wake of the Thai army’s seizure of power last month, the military junta declared it would track down Jakrapob, who has declared on multiple occasions his intention to form a government in exile.

If he does ultimately run his operation from Cambodia, he may not have much to fear from the local government.

According to political analyst Peter Tan Keo, if an organisation takes root in Cambodia, political dissidents like Jakrapob will probably be fine as long as internal business affairs remain normal and “pressure to curtail a resistance movement” isn’t spearheaded by ASEAN leaders.

“Mr. Hun Sen’s government has a tradition of leaning towards Thaksin, favoring the ‘red shirts,’ and as such the pro-Royalist military junta may lack sufficient political capital to get Cambodia to sway in their favor,” Keo wrote in an email.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LAIGNEE BARRON

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