Former red-shirt defends Apirat's inflammatory speech

Former red-shirt defends Apirat's inflammatory speech

Former hard-core red-shirt member Suporn Atthawong has come out in defence of army chief Apirat Kongsompong's strongly-worded speech. (Photo by Prasit Tanprasert)
Former hard-core red-shirt member Suporn Atthawong has come out in defence of army chief Apirat Kongsompong's strongly-worded speech. (Photo by Prasit Tanprasert)

Suporn Atthawong, a former hard-core leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), has come out in defence of Apirat Kongsompong after the army chief on Friday delivered a strongly-worded speech lashing out at politicians and other elements opposed to the government under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The speech prompted widespread criticism.

Speaking at a press conference in Nakhon Ratchasima on Sunday, Mr Suporn, alias "Isan Rambo", said that when it comes to matters of national security he agrees with Gen Apirak, who said on Friday that in the current situation the country needs "cooperation" from the people to keep the country moving.

The former red-shirt said some politicians and political groups are trying to sow conflict in the country.

For example, when Gen Prayut was in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly, a number of foreigners were hired to lift placards and banners in protest against him and lobbyists were hired to produce articles attacking the Thai government, Mr Suporn claimed.

He said the army chief was speaking in his capacity as director of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc)j, and his words were intended to create sustainable peace.  

The former red-shirt accused a number of politicians in the opposition bloc -- including Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and former Pheu Thai heavyweights like Chaturon Chaisaeng, Watana Muangsook, Anusorn Iamsa-ard and Nattawut Saikuar -- of continuing to criticise the government and instigate rifts in Thai politics.

Mr Suporn also said a Thai politician should not have "interfered" in the anti-government protests in Hong Kong because in doing so he had prompted China to issue a stern warning, damaging Thailand's image. He was apparently referring to Mr Thanathorn, who appeared in a picture with Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong protest leader.

"Mr Thanathorn can take steps to fulfil his political plan, but he should not resort to using the country and the Thai people as his tools. We don't want the Future Forward Party leader to lead Thailand into conflicts with other countries," Mr Suporn said.

He said that in his view Mr Thanathorn is playing politics outside the parliamentary system. Actions such as mingling with a group of protesters could be seen as instigating unrest, Mr Suporn added, describing the Future Forward Party leader's conduct as putting the country at risk.

Since he is a former member of the Pheu Thai Party and its predecessors Thai Rak Thai and Palang Prachachon, Mr Suporn said he was entitled to say that Pheu Thai is still playing the same old-style politics, resorting to foul play and mudslinging.

Pheu Thai should have learned lessons from its past mistakes, Mr Suporn said.

He added that the Prayut governments have come into being to clean up the mess left by past administrations.

Mr Suporn is currently a vice minister attached to the Prime Minister's Office. His appointment to this political post is said to be a reward for his defection from Pheu Thai to the pro-military Palang Pracharath Party prior to the March 24 election.

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