Thousands join new red group

Thousands of supporters of the Yingluck Shinawatra government from 20 northeastern provinces flocked to join the red shirts’ “Democracy Protection Volunteers Group” (DPVG) yesterday, with organisers saying they expect numbers to eventually reach 200,000 nationwide.

The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) launched the campaign to form a powerful group that would counter the anti-government movement in Bangkok.

On its first day of recruitment in 20 northeastern provinces, many people, mainly UDD supporters, flocked to have their qualifications checked in order to apply for DPVG membership.

In Khon Kaen, red-shirt supporters from 26 districts gathered at the provincial hall to register.

For those unable to get to the venue, the UDD said it would send teams directly to the villages, “so that they can easily apply for this important role”, said Thanik Masiphithak, a Khon Kaen UDD leader.

He said he believed there was great interest in the DPVG and that it would have the power of the people to “protect democracy, fight for democracy and support the government in elections”.

Interest was high in Nakhon Ratchasima, where UDD leader Suporn Atthawong, the DPVG chairman, turned up at the registration venue to address applicants and supporters.

He said the group would “resist all types of dictatorship” but insisted it would have nothing to do with separatism, would not use arms and would not be “a force to confront other sides”.

The UDD campaign to set up the DPVG was launched on March 1, the same day the pro-Thaksin group staged a mass counter-rally in Udon Thani province to the Bangkok-based anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee.

Supporters from outside the Northeast can apply for DPVG membership at their provincial halls on Saturday, he said.

By the end of the month, Mr Suporn said, it was hoped that there would be at least 200,000 DPVG members countrywide.

Once members were signed up, they would receive training from retired army personnel, he said.

The group already has a capable and experienced expert to help the movement. Gen Panlop Pinmani, a former deputy director of the Internal Security Operations Command, will be a DPVG adviser.

Meanwhile, thousands of UDD supporters in the North gathered yesterday in Chiang Mai to prepare to travel to Bangkok.

“We have not set a time yet, but we’re ready to go,” said UDD leadership figure Jatuporn Prompan during an assembly of red shirts from 18 northern provinces at Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Muang district.

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