NAKHON RATCHASIMA — The hardline Redshirt activist known as 'Rambo Isaan' has vowed to quit politics "for life" following his release from six days of detention in a military camp.
"When I first became political, I came here to ask for Thao Suranaree's blessing, and I became an MP as I wished," Suphon Attawong said as he prayed to the shrine of Nakhon Ratchasima's local heroine this morning. "Today, I have decided to leave politics, so I came here again to tell her I want to quit."
Mr. Suphon is the co-founder of a grassroots Redshirt organisation, the National Volunteers for the Defence of Democracy (NVDD), which boasts over 10,000 members across the northern and northeastern provinces. The group held several combat training sessions this year to prepare members for resistance in the event of a military coup.
The military summoned Mr. Suphon a day after deposing the Redshirt-allied government in a coup d’état on 22 May.
Since seizing power, the military has detained hundreds of politicians and political activists in an attempt to diffuse the country's political turmoil. So far, all detainees have been released after seven days or less on the condition that they will not participate in any political activities or leave the country without the army’s permission.
Mr. Suphon, who was released yesterday after six days in detention, said the military treated him well.
Mr. Suphon also said he was convinced by his military handlers that "there has been a radical division in the society,” which has convinced him to cease his involvement in politics and dissolve the NVDD.
"I will resign from the Pheu Thai Party and suspend all political activities." Mr. Suphon said. "If anyone uses my name to get involved in politics, the law enforcement officials should strictly pursue legal actions against them."
Mr. Suphon also said he will disown the nickname Rambo Isaan, asking the public to refer to him as Mr. Suphon from now on. He said that he does not harbour any ill-will towards the coupmakers and hopes the head of the military junta, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, will swiftly bring peace back to the country and organise elections in a timely manner.
In April, Mr. Suphon told a Khaosod correspondent, "if a coup takes place, we will summon all NVDD members to Bangkok in order to express our support of democracy … we are willing to lay down our lives in defence of an elected government."
Today, Mr. Suphon said that he has not spoken to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is considered to de facto leader of the Redshirt movement, for a long time.
Before leaving Thao Suranaree Shrine, Mr Suphon posed for a friendly photograph with a soldier.