Red shirts face leadership crisis

Udon Thani-based red-shirt leader Kwanchai Praipana announced Wednesday his faction in the Northeast has cut ties with Tida Tawornseth, chair of the red-shirt umbrella group, United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship.

Kwanchai Praipana

The chairman of the Khon Rak Udon (We Love Udon) group said his group and some 20 other red-shirt provincial organisations in the Northeast will no longer attend political activities or events in which UDD leader Mrs Tida participates or organises. 

However, in a further sign of deep divisions inside the overall red shirt movement, Mr Kwanchai said his group still had normal relations with two others UDD co-leaders Jatuporn Prompan and Nattawut Saikuar, and remains loyal to the overall UDD group. 

The resentment towards Mrs Tida emerged at the UDD mass rally at Bonanza resort last month near Khao Yai, after she refused  to interrupt entertainment in order to allow key red shirt members from the northeastern provinces introduce themselves.

It was believed the incident was further exacerbated by Mrs Tida’s "authoritarian leadership style", in the opinion of Mr Kwanchai, who now is openly hostile to the 69-year-old UDD chair, according to a source in the group. 

“The UDD has constantly deteriorated by the day," said Mr Kwanchai on Wednesday. "It mobilised without listening to a man in a faraway land despite using his money to mobilise. [Mrs Tida] flattered herself that this government was established by the red shirts. But does  UDD belong to her? No, it doesn’t,” Mr Kwanchai said. 

Pheu Thai party list MP and red-shirt co-leader Chinnawat Haboonpad said Mrs Tida had performed her duty well in many ways. However, he admitted that he had learned from aides of the Surat Thani native that she needed to reduce her "dictatorial style leadership", decentralise power and be more open to others' opinions. 

He called on Mr Kwanchai and Mrs Tida to compromise with each other in order to play down media reports on the rift among UDD leaders. 

Tida Tawornseth

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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth