Thai 'red-shirt' leader offers to work with govt

A red-shirt leader in Ubon Ratchathani yesterday promised to work with the government in restoring peace in society and helping to develop the country.

Jamroonsak Jantaramai, who is affiliated with the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), made the vow while meeting PM Prayut Chan-o-cha during his official visit to the province yesterday.

The man also said he was persuading other red-shirt leaders in many provinces to help the government in those areas.

"The political conflict has not helped with the country's development. Even if there was an election now, the conflict would still exist and the country would not move forward," Jamroonsak said. "If things continue like this, the problem will not be over in the next 20 years."

He called on those involved in the conflict to compromise and "meet half-way".

The red-shirt leader said General Prayut should be given time to finish his work. He added that the prime minister, who led the coup in May last year while serving as the Army chief, has obtained more acceptance from the public now.

He said that he had no concern that his fellow UDD leaders would be angry with him for voicing his support of General Prayut.

The UDD and its leaders are supporters of the Pheu Thai Party, which led the government before the military coup. Many of the UDD leaders are Pheu Thai politicians.

Jamroonsak asked to meet the prime minister in person during his visit to Ubon Ratchathani's Don Mod Daeng subdistrict to meet with local villagers.

General Prayut told the red-shirt leader that he should help the government. "You should have pity for ordinary people. You [political rivals] fight against each other but it's the ordinary people who suffer," he said. Jamroonsak responded that he was ready to help the government with national development.

The PM hugged him and asked, "Aren't you afraid they may scold you?" The red-shirt leader said, "No. I do this for the country."

Jamroonsak, earlier elected head of the UDD's Ubon Ratchathani chapter, was sentenced to three months in jail after a riot and arson attack on the province's City Hall in May 2010. After last year's coup, he was among the first in the northeastern province to be summoned for "attitude adjustment".

When former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from the Pheu Thai Party visited Ubon Ratchathani recently, he was not among the people who came to greet her.

Prayut yesterday visited a village where the government's economic stimulus projects are being implemented successfully. Some 2,000 people were present to welcome him, under tight security.

The prime minister was accompanied during the trip by a number of his Cabinet members, including deputy premiers Somkid Jatusripitak and ACM Prajin Juntong, Interior Minister General Anupong Paochinda, PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana, Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister General Chatchai Sarikalya, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpitayapaisith, and Commerce Minister Apiradi Tantraporn.

At the military airport in Ubon Ratchathani, the PM and his entourage were greeted by the provincial governors of Ubon Ratchathani, Si Sa Ket, Yasothon and Amnat Charoen, as well as other local officials.

Prayut yesterday noted that ordinary protesters often ended up being punished for violating the law while protest leaders mostly could get away with it. He gave as an example a recent case in which red-shirt protesters were sentenced to between three and 13 years for taking part in an arson attack on Khon Kaen City Hall in 2010.

The PM maintained that the country's return to democracy would go on as planned in the post-coup road map. "But democracy must take care of all people, not just certain groups. That's real democracy," he said.