The leader of Thailand’s opposition “Red Shirts” accused the ruling military junta of trying to provoke them into a "fight," media reports said Thursday.
"I don't believe that you (junta) want reconciliation, instead you want chaos and want us to go out and fight," Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the Red Shirts, told local station Peace TV, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported. "There is no reason for Red Shirts to take part in either case since we do not benefit from either incident," he added.
Prompan was bailed earlier this week after receiving a two-year jail sentence for defaming a former premier in 2009.
He was responding to the arrest of Red Shirts' member Krit Buddeejin who had been accused on suspicion of defaming the country’s ruling royalty, the Bangkok Post reported. Prompan defended Buddeejin, 25, saying the latter's move was not aimed at harming the monarchy, a charge which carries a sentence of up to 15 years.
The Red Shirts movement recently came under suspicion after a bomb attack at a Bangkok luxury mall on Sunday, and for fabricating documents about King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s health. On Monday, junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha had blamed opponents of the coup for the bomb blast, AFP reported.
The Red Shirts, who are officially represented by the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (IDD), are a political group loyal to deposed leader Yingluck Shinawatra, who was banned from politics last month by the National Legislative Assembly. The ban prevents Yingluck from participating in the next elections, which the junta says it will hold in 2016.
After the May coup in which Yingluck’s government was replaced with one selected by the military, the group had reportedly softened its stance, until recently.
Thailand’s political scene has grown increasingly combative and bitter, ever since Yingluck’s brother Thaksin Shinawatra’s government was ousted in a coup, also backed by the military royalist wing.
Thailand’s royalist wing is steadfastly opposed to the Shinawatras, who they accuse of corrupting and weakening Thai politics.
But opposition critics accuse them of prosecuting political dissent and imposing draconian anti-speech laws. Pongpit Onlamai, a prominent Red Shirts member, told Reuters that “soldiers are always following me around ... the army’s control is firm because they have the guns.”