Vocational students and red shirts join to form new ‘protest guard’ group

We Volunteer (WeVo), the main volunteer guard group for the pro-democracy rallies, said on Monday that the formation of a new association of volunteer guards serves more as a symbolic move than a practical one.

Red Shirts groups, such as the ones from Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Huai Khwang and Samut Sakhon have joined up with vocational school student groups and the student-led pro-democracy group, Ratsadon, at a rally on Aksa Road on Sunday.

Before the end of the rally, ten volunteer guard groups teamed up to announce the formation of the new network of volunteer guards call, the Association of the People’s Guard (กลุ่มการ์ดภาคีเพื่อประชาชน).

They said that they will join the rally that has been called for by the Ratsadon group at the Crown Property Bureau on November 25.

However, Piyarat “Toto” Chongthep, the leader of WeVo, told Thai Enquirer that his group is not a part of the new association and they will continue to operate independently as normal.

“We were already working with them at previous rallies and will continue to do so at the next one on November 25 but we will also continue operate independently from them as we have our own system such as our screening process for new volunteers,” he said.  

Right now, there are around 300-400 volunteers with WeVo which will be identified by their new arm band at the rally on November 25.

The Association of the People’s Guard have yet to announce whether they will continue to operate under different armbands or one emblem.

Piyarat told Thai Enquirer that the proliferation of guard groups means it will be hard to screen volunteers and avoid impersonators.

“The new association still does not have a clear leadership so nothing much will change where most of the operation will be figured out on site once we have identified which volunteer groups have joined on the day,” he said.

“The formation is more of a symbolistic move but we still welcome it,” he added.

The formation of the new association came after the Gear of Red Thonburi, one of the major vocational student groups, and a smaller group from Vocational Student Friend of Democracy, had last week asked their members not to show their emblem if they wish to join the pro-democracy rally this coming Wednesday.

Their concern was over the use of profanity against the monarch in the push for the reformation of the institution.

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