UDON THANI – The Udon Lovers branch of the National United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship celebrated their five year anniversary this morning by officially opening their new headquarters in Udon’s Sam Phrao district.
Pheu Thai party candidate and Udon Lovers founder Kwanchai Praipana unveiled the so-called “Red Kingdom” office building and radio station. The building is a milestone for the burgeoning political movement, as it marks the first significant capital improvements to a station that, now, has inspired a following of more than 400,000 people.
Mr. Kwanchai, who grew to prominence as one the station’s most outspoken DJ’s, addressed the modest mid-morning crowd of Red Shirts that had come for the ceremony. “It’s been a long time since our rights were robbed from us by the Democrats,” he said. “Now is the time to take a stand – this is our kingdom.”
The one-time record producer’s remarks were punctuated by the boom of small confetti cannons and the silent whir of bubble machines flanking the building’s front steps, theatrics that felt more than just a little anticlimactic.
That feeling was owed, in part, to what most certainly became the true highlight of the anniversary, a video call-in from Thaksin Shinawatra scheduled for much later in the evening. Mr. Thaksin enjoys particularly strong support amongst the Udon Lovers and throughout the day his name was invoked numerous times, with one speaker telling his audience that, “while we may elect different candidates for the Phuea Thai Party, everything we do, all of our work is for Thaksin.”
Even as Mr. Kwanchai ramps up his election campaign, he told reporters that Udon Lovers was founded in 2006 as a “non-political” defense of the former Prime Minister. “Back then… [Yellow Shirt Leader] Sondhi Limthongkul made a show of bashing and lying about Thaksin,” he said. “We wanted to counter him and argue for the truth.” Since then, the group has grown enormously and, if Mr. Kwanchai’s candidacy is any indication, has become more politically ambitious.
Between the morning’s brief ceremony and the evening’s much-anticipated phone call, the gathered Red Shirts were encouraged to make donations to help pay for the last third of the 15-million baht, two-story complex. A boisterous group of volunteers manning one of the six donation tents estimated that they had taken in upwards of 20,000 baht by noontime alone and that the Udon Lovers wouldn’t have any problem reaching their goal for the day.
As evening approached, thousands of more Red Shirts were expected to arrive, give money, and enjoy an evening of performances and politics.