On Sunday, 17 April 2011, Red Shirts went to Samranrat Police Station, around the corner from Lan Kon Mueang, to accompany their leaders to file a counter case against Army Chief Prayud Chana-ocha, who filed there a lese majeste case against several Red Shirt leaders for their speeches on their Democracy Monument stage on 10 April. I arrived just before lunch.
Several hundred Red Shirts were already there, but blocked by police from entering the Soi. Inside the Soi, just in front of the police station about 200 to 300 “Monarchy Protection Volunteers” were protesting. Most of them were dressed in pink. They held portraits of the King and the Queen, and sung royalist songs. Soon the volunteers withdrew to Lan Kon Muang, making way for the Red Shirts. The Monarchy Protection Volunteers announced their demands: the protection of the monarchy, to sponsor democracy, to keep the lese majeste laws in place, to call on people to protect the monarchy, and to ask journalists and the people to protect the monarchy. The name of their group was “Sahaphan Khon Thai Pok Bong Sathaban” (Federation of Thais Protecting the Monarchy), and their leader Rachen Trakulwieng claimed that they came from local Monarchy Protection Volunteer groups of several districts.
The Red Shirts now waited for their leaders in front of the Police station, a few Red Shirts stood at the corner just opposite the Protection Volunteers, together with a few police officers. In the Police Station a few members of Dr. Tul’s group filed another lese majeste case against the Red Shirt leaders.
They said that they just have heard of the Monarchy Protection Volunteers’ plan, and decided to join. When the Red Shirt leaders — Jatuporn Prompan, Rambo Isaarn, Dr. Weng Tojirakarn, and Udon MP Wichien Khaokham — arrived all of us journalists cramped into the small room in the police station. Police Major General Amnuay Nimmano greeted the Red Shirt leaders, and Jatuporn read his statement to both police and the media, mentioning Wikileaks, and also warning that a similar situation to 6 October 1976 may be being engineered. The media was asked to leave while the case was filed, and one Red Shirt journalist told me that a conflict between Red Shirts and Monarchy Protection Volunteers was building up just down the road.
When I arrived at Lan Khon Mueng just 200 meters away the two groups were already separated. Police said that mostly a few insults were hurled, a few bottles may have been thrown, but nothing serious happened. The Monarchy Protection Volunteers withdrew further down the road, and soon left. I was very concerned when suddenly a group of people dressed in pink and yellow came out of a temple opposite. They were not part of any group, and I feared that in the heated atmosphere Red Shirts might mistake them for members of the Monarchy Protection Volunteers due to their shirt colours. The group quickly got into city buses and left.
This new group of the Monarchy Protection Volunteers was most definitely not People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and/or their many sub- and splinter groups, other than Dr. Tul’s group, which has joined afterwards. None of the color and professionalism of the PAD events was visible, and none of the regular participants of the PAD were there. Since the PAD protested this time at Government House, both PAD and Red Shirts tried to stay out of each other’s way. The organization of this group reminded me of Interior Ministry sponsored events I have seen previously, also several of the participants might have been soldiers out of uniform.
The situation seems to be heating up considerably again, and may have entered a new stage. What concerns me is the presence by a group in one more color that is supposed to be neutral, making it more difficult again to identify who is part of this group, and who are just normal citizens expressing their love for the King without political affiliation.