June 01, 2014 00:00
By Seksanti Kanlayanawisut
A National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) campaign to reconcile people with opposing political stances is underway.
The first of these endeavours, “Lowering Red Flags”, is targeting stronghold areas for the Pheu Thai Party.
Under the campaign, national flags will be raised symbolically in place of red flags or flags of other political colours and will be followed by dialogue between opposing sides, said a source with the Army’s Udon Thani-based Suranaree Force, which is running a local campaign.
Leaders of all opposing sides have been called to meetings in the Northeast so they can air their basic requests before a regional reconciliation centre is set up.
The reconcilatory measures will be carried out jointly by civilian authorities, the police and military through local forums at village, tambon and district levels.
“For example, the red shirts will speak out about what they want and the yellow shirts will do the same, and both sides will try to reconcile,” the source said. “If they cannot do it, the military will intervene and will help out with their differences.”
In Udon Thani, regarded as the red shirt “capital” in Isaan, signs at the “red village” at Nong Hoo Ling in Muang district, were removed by troops shortly after the military took power. The signs were removed from most villages in all 20 districts in the province. Nong Hoo Ling became the first red village back in 2002.
Around 20,000 villages, from the 74,956 nationwide, are regarded as “red” villages.
Following the coup, leaders and residents of three red communities in Chaiyaphum, another large red-shirt stronghold, agreed to lower red flags, remove “red village” signs and a photo of Thaksin Shinawatra, Pheu Thai’s de-facto leader, but still hang red shirts at the front of homes.
Nong Bor, Kud Khaen and None Samor were inaugurated red villages in 2012 by former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law.
The NCPO has replaced several provincial governors with those it has greater trust in. Many were serving in red-shirt strongholds and have been transferred to inactive duty or to other provinces that are smaller in area or stature.
For example, Chiang Mai governor Wichian Phutwinyu is now the Saraburi governor while Khon Kaen governor Somsak Suwannajarit is now an inspector-general.
The first NCPO transfer order issued last week saw nine governor changes. The second order issued the next day saw 15 changes.