Red shirt leaders believe a coup will happen before Jan 13: Two top leaders of Thailand’s red-shirt movement said they believe there will “definitely” be an attempt to stage a coup before January 13, according to a report in the Thai news media.
The comments were made by Tida Thawornseth, who is chair of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), the official name of the movement commonly referred to as the “red-shirts”, and Jatuporn Prompan, who is a core UDD member.
During a press conference, the two red-shirt leaders claimed the so-called “Operation Bangkok Shutdown”, which is being loudly proclaimed by the leaders of anti-government protesters to begin on January 13, is merely a ploy to distract public attention.
Ms. Tida and Mr. Jatuporn said they believed a coup attempt would definitely be staged before January 13.
The two leaders cited “a military report that there had been an unusual movement of a large number of troops to the 11th Infantry Regiment under the pretext of taking part in Children’s Day on Jan 11 and Armed Forces Day on Jan 18,” according to a report in the Bangkok Post.
The red-shirt leaders claimed the troop movements were, in fact, a preparation for a coup, said the report.
Red shirt leaders have already warned that a coup would be unacceptable in any form, and that they would fight against it.
Thailand has had some 18 coups or attempted coups since it became a democracy in 1932 with the overthrow of the absolute monarchy.
The last military coup was in 2006 when the government of Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown in a bloodless coup without a shot being fired – the major event that sparked the political turmoil that has plagued the country ever since.
The great political divide was evident immediately following the 2006 coup. In Bangkok, many residents celebrated the event, bringing flowers and food to the soldiers the next morning after the late-night coup.
It was a carnival-like atmosphere, with people, including children, posing for photos with the soldiers – who were seen as heroes.
But up in the North and Northeast of the country, where Thaksin’s support is strong, his supporters were enraged, and eventually started the red-shirt movement which has played a crucial role in events ever since.
The pro-red shirt, pro-Thaksin political parties have won all five elections since 2001, and are still believed to command the support of the majority of Thais.
The current anti-government protest movement is demanding the resignation of caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who dissolved the House of Representatives a month ago in an attempt to appease the protesters. A snap election was called to form a new government, in accordance with Thai law.
But the protesters are demanding political reforms be enacted before the next election, and are trying to disrupt the snap election called by the Yingluck government for February 2.
The protest movement is closely aligned with the opposition Democrat Party, which is boycotting the February poll.