A secondary leader of the red-shirt movement has come under the spotlight again following the alleged discovery of a cache of weapons at a Pathum Thani house linked to him.
Wuthipong Kotthammakhun, who is better known as “Ko Tee”, has been living in self-exile in Laos since the military coup in May 2014. He is wanted for alleged lese majeste.
While in Laos, Ko Tee has regularly hosted a programme broadcast through YouTube’s video-sharing website. He recently talked about preparations for an armed “liberation” to form a so-called federation of Thailand.
The red-shirt leader said the discovery of the weapons was a “set-up” to frame him.
He claimed the proposed revolution to form a federation was in the preparation stage.
Last Saturday, a joint police-military team searched the office of a company called Thai Max Group in Pathum Thani’s Lam Luk Ka district, where Ko Tee had stayed while in Thailand. A large number of weapons were found, including assault rifles, a rocket launcher, hand grenades and ammunitions. A man detained as a result of the operation said the weapons were put under his care by staff of Ko Tee’s community radio station.
Following the discovery, certain red-shirt leaders attempted to disown Ko Tee, saying his group’s hardline stance did not represent the movement’s mainstream non-violence ideology.
For years during the oft-violent confrontations between the rival groups of political colours, Ko Tee ran a community radio called Red Guards Radio in Pathum Thani. Thanks to the broadcasts, he managed to mobilise red-shirt supporters of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on many occasions.
While the controversial Dhammakaya Temple in Pathum Thani was under siege by authorities recently, Ko Tee campaigned for his fellow red shirts to support the “fight” of the temple’s monks and its followers. Judging from what he said in his YouTube videos, Ko Tee and his supporters seem to be convinced that any government attempt to “destroy” Dhammakaya Temple would benefit their fight to form a Thai federation.
Recently, Ko Tee announced a plan to set up a “liberation zone” in Thailand, covering mostly border provinces such as Nakhon Phanom, Khon Kaen, Sa Kaew, Tak and Mae Hong Son. He persuaded red-shirt people to join military training in an area on the other side of the Mekong River.
A former communist insurgent known as “Comrade Luet” is going to be the trainer, according to a source familiar with the matter. Comrade Luet was summoned by the military following the latest coup but he later managed to leave the country and is now living in Laos.