The junta has restarted its restless hunt for Wuthipong Kachathamkun, also known as Ko Tee, an exiled hard-core red-shirt leader. The junta claim he is involved in a plot to assassinate the junta head. But who is he actually?
On 18 March, a combined force of police and military searched nine houses and arrested nine people allegedly involved in a plot to assassinate the junta leader Gen Prayut Chan-ocha. The authorities confiscated military weapons including M16s, an M79, rifles, and ammunition, claiming that some of the weapons were stolen from soldiers during the April-May 2010 political violence.
The authorities said that the arrested people were linked to Ko Tee, a fugitive hard-core red-shirt leader, believed to be residing in Lao PDR. Deputy junta head Gen Prawit Wongsuwan said that the junta will ask the Lao government to deport Ko Tee back to Thailand.
A day after the raid, Ko Tee stated that the weapons did not belong to him and the operation was ‘set up’ by the authorities to portray the red shirts as a violent armed group.
Although it is still unclear which narrative is true, it is obvious that the Ko Tee is a real threat to the junta to the level that even key red-shirt leaders reject any involvement with him. Here are some reasons he was targeted as the junta’s number one enemy.
Wuthipong 'Ko Tee' Kachathamkun (Photo from Tnews)
Spearhead of raid on 2009 ASEAN Summit
Ko Tee’s first involvement in Thai politics dates back to the 2006 coup. He was then a DJ at Red Guard Radio, a community radio station in Pathum Thani Province run by the United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD). His role was to spread news and messages of the UDD to local red shirts.
When the UDD staged a protest in the heart of Bangkok, Ko Tee was appointed as head of security at the protest site and later formed his own independent group – Pathum Thani People Preserving Democracy.
He was a spearhead in the UDD raid on the 2009 ASEAN Summit in Pattaya during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government. The raid forced the government to abruptly cancel the event, a serious blow to the government’s international prestige. Ko Tee’s group began to be regarded as hard-core red shirts.
Red shirts raid into 2009 ASEAN Summit at Royal Cliff Beach, Pattaya (Photo from OK Nation)
Confrontation with the military
Before the crackdown against the red-shirt protests in 2010, the military, on the orders of the Abhisit government, seized the THAICOM satellite station in Pathum Thani in an attempt to shut down the TV channels of the red shirts. Ko Tee led over 10 thousand protesters to reclaim the station, leading to a brief clash with the military. Ko Tee’s group initially succeeded in driving out the military, but eventually retreated.
Red shirts clash with the authorities at the satellite station (Photo from Prachachat)
Bloody clash with anti-election protesters
In 2014, the anti-election People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) seized Lak Si District Office in order to disrupt the 2 February election, leading to a violent clash with Ko Tee and his supporters from Pathum Thani. The sound of gunfire came from both sides. The incident led to one death and several injuries.
PDRC protesters fire at Ko Tee's group (Photo from Chaopraya News)
Challenging constitutional judges
The penalties for contempt of court in Thailand are particularly harsh. A group of activists were recently prosecuted merely for demanding the release of a lèse majesté suspect. That, however, is not a problem for Ko Tee.
In 2012, the Constitutional Court accepted a corruption case against Yingluck Shinawatra over the rice-pledging policy. Ko Tee led 30 protesters to the court to oust the nine constitutional court judges, arguing that they were illegitimate as they were appointed under the 2006 junta regime.
Ko Tee brought with him nine coffins with images on the nine judges on them. He burnt them in front of the court building and then dissolved the protest.
Charged with lèse majesté
In 2014, the police issued an arrest warrant for Ko Tee after he was accused of defaming the monarchy in an interview with Vice News. A couple of weeks later, members of the Love the King Club from Phetchaburi, Chaiyaphum, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Sawan, Khon Kaen, Maha Sarakham, and Ubon Ratchathani provinces filed a lèse majesté complaint against him on similar grounds.
He is believed to have since fled the country. He still runs his radio programmes from an undisclosed location on a YouTube channel.