Reds ready to counter Pitak Siam

Korkaew says anti-govt rally has Democrat links

Red-shirt supporters from 20 provinces in the Northeast are ready to counter any further rallies led by the Pitak Siam group, Udon Thani red leader Kwanchai Praipana says.

He made the statement in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday in response to a plan by the Pitak Siam group to hold its next rally against the Pheu Thai Party-led government within a month following Sunday's gathering at the Royal Turf Club in Nang Loeng district of the capital which the rally organiser claimed drew around 20,000 participants.

Gen Boonlert Kaewprasit, a retired officer and the core organiser, believes the campaign is gaining momentum.

Mr Kwanchai, head of the Khon Rak Udon group (People Who Love Udon), said he and his group were ready to hold rallies anywhere to counter the Pitak Siam group and he did not believe Pitak Siam's campaign would gain any momentum.

Mr Kwanchai said he stood on his own feet without financial support from Pheu Thai and that the Khon Rak Udon group acts on its own.

He also warned that if the government fails to bring ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra back home during its first four years in office, Pheu Thai should not expect the Khon Rak Udon group to support it in the next general election.

Pheu Thai's two previous incarnations, Thai Rak Thai and People Power, had failed to bring Thaksin home, Mr Kwanchai said.

Mayuree Sawatasai, a red-shirt leader in Ayutthaya, said Pitak Siam is an offshoot of the yellow-shirt People's Alliance for Democracy. The group's leaders are those who had previously campaigned against the government, she said.

She said if the Pitak Siam group continues with its anti-government rallies, she and red shirts in Ayutthaya will feel the need to come forward to protect the democratically elected government.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday said the rally by Pitak Siam would not affect the government's work.

However, she said it would be best if the government is scrutinised through parliamentary mechanisms.

Meanwhile, army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said his stance on the political conflict will be based on the rule of law.

"Any government of this country is a legal entity. Don't fault any government for being right and another being wrong. I will not take any sides," he said.

Asked about Pitak Siam calling for a coup, Gen Prayuth said briefly: "Without a reason, it [a coup] can't be done. It depends on the situation. Don't ask me about this again.".

Pheu Thai list-MP and red-shirt co-leader Korkaew Pikulthong said yesterday the Pitak Siam rally drew an unusually large number of people and that the rally might be linked to a political party.

Mr Korkaew claimed Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva met a former Democrat MP who runs a stable and has close ties with Gen Boonlert, Pitak Siam's leader.

He also alleged some participants in the rally who came from the lower Northeast were paid by a "blue-shirt" political party.

Mr Korkaew also said some business groups involved in nefarious activities at the Royal Turf Club are plotting to topple the government.

He said horse-racing is a form of gambling and the government should close down the Royal Turf Club.

He said this would prevent groups involved in vice from spending the money they gain from improper activities on plotting to bring down the government.

Mr Korkaew urged the government to be on alert and keep a close watch on these anti-government elements.Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said he had told police to review the tape recording of the Sunday rally to see if any defamatory remarks were made.

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