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Soldiers will fight for red shirts: Jaran

Leader warns any lethal crackdown on protesters will lead to full-scale civil war

Army tanks would roll down the streets of Bangkok to defend the protesters rallying at Rajprasong intersection if the government decided to use lethal means to dislodge them, a red-shirt leader warned on Friday evening.

"Soldiers would deal with one another. Tanks would fire at one another. And even if [the government] won, it would be on the rubble of ruins for everyone, " Jaran Dittha-apichai told The Nation in an exclusive interview.

The government would probably try to capture the movement's leaders first and, if that failed, they would resort to a drastic crackdown that would trigger a full-scale civil war with sympathetic factions in the Army and police force coming out to protect the demonstrators, he said.

Up to 60 per cent of soldiers side with the red shirts while 70 per cent of police are red, he said. The Army is now reluctant to act after witnessing the high death toll and casualties from the bloody clashes on April 10, he added.

So far 25 have died, including five soldiers, and more than 800 officers and civilians were wounded.

"Actually I think the way out is not difficult, but [PM] Abhisit [Vejjajiva] refuses to seek it, or perhaps someone else is telling him not to back down," he said, referring to a belief that maybe someone more powerful than him was telling the premier not to cave in to the demands.

"There would be several hundred deaths and, if they felt bloodthirsty enough, they would do it," he said.

Jaran, a former member of the National Human Rights Commission, claimed that businesses in the area had been summoned by the government and informed that they would be compensated for any collateral damage - a sign that the use of force to disperse the opposition could be imminent.

"But it wouldn't end there. They may win the battle [at Rajprasong] but not the war. A huge loss of life and property would result and they couldn't blame it all on us. Our strength is the hearts of many people who are fearless, as proven at Phan Fa Bridge [on April 10]."

Jaran, who is one of the 24 leaders wanted by the government, admitted he was surprised by the number of people in and around Bangkok who had come to join the rallies.

"We will wait to see how many people will show up on Monday [after the Songkran holiday] is over."

"As many as 70 to 80 per cent of Bangkok residents support us," he said. "We will rely on ourselves and still want to see the immediate dissolution of the House. It's now a deadlock that needs a political solution."

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