Red shirt hardliner seeks 600,000 men

Deputy secretary-general to the prime minister and red-shirt leader Suporn Attawong on Thursday announced plans to recruit 600,000 young men to join the new pro-government Democracy Protection Volunteers Group this year, a move that raises concerns about the possibility of the country descending into civil war.

Mr Suporn was speaking at a press conference held at a hotel in Nakhon Ratchasima's Muang district to announce the establishment of the volunteers group in 20 northeastern provinces. He was accompanied by more than 20 volunteer leaders and supporters from provinces in the Northeast. 

The volunteers group was needed, he said, because a particular group of people and a political party were attempting to overthrow the constitutional monarchy by proposing the setting up of a “people's council'' and topple the elected government by blockading roads and government offices. 

The key leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) was apparently referring to the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) and the Democrat Party. 

Given that the group’s political movement would destroy democracy and people’s power and, if successful, could lead to civil war, Mr Suporn said the founding of the volunteer force was necessary to protect the constitutional monarchy  

Mr Suporn said applications for volunteers would be open in the 20 northeastern provinces from this Saturday, March 1 and he expected at least 200,000 people would enroll within a month. 

The group was looking for healthy men aged between 18 and 25 who were willing to fight together and sacrifice their lives to uphold ideology.

All volunteers would receive “tactical training” for a month, he said without elaborating. 

The movement had invited Gen Panlop Pinmanee, the former deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), to be its adviser. 

The hardline UDD co-leader expected 600,000 like-minded young men from across the country to join the volunteer force later this year. 

Army commander Prayuth Chan-ocha on Tuesday warned there is a chance of ''civil war'' erupting if the parties involved in the political crisis do not respect the rules.

An army source said Gen Prayuth had asked caretaker premier Yingluck Shinawatra to persuade the UDD not to bring protesters to the capital to prevent a possible confrontation with the PDRC supporters. 

The UDD leaders in the Northeast have announced they will mobilise supporters in a “pro-democracy caravan” that will travel through four provinces on Saturday and Sunday. The four provinces are Udon Thani, Kalasin, Maha Sarakham and Khon Kaen.

Thanik Maseepitak, former Pheu Thai party list MP and UDD co-leader in the region, said he and other ex-Pheu Thai MPs from both the party-list and constituency systems would participate in the event.  

The demonstrators would not occupy any state agencies but only gather around provincial court buildings and offices of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) in the four provinces, Mr Thanik said. 

“The activity is a symbolic expression being held on the weekend so as not to affect the work of the authorities,” he added.Meanwhile, the commander of the Northeast-based 2nd Army Region, held talks with governors from provinces in the upper Northeast to ask them to monitor any attempts to instigate hatred among different political groups.Lt Gen Charnchai Puthong, in his capacity as director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) Region 2, said “the talks received good co-operation from the provincial governors who will discuss the matter and create mutual understanding with the people, especially over problems related to the use of war weapons to stir up disturbances”.

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