Red shirts greet Apiwan's body amid tight security
Core leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship insist a gathering of red shirts at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday was not a political activity, saying they were simply there to receive the body of Apiwan Wiriyachai after his death in the Philippines.
Black day for reds: Mourners pay tribute to Apiwan Wiriyachai at Wat Bang Phai. The former red shirt leader died while on the run from lese majeste charges in the Philippines.
Key UDD leaders and red shirts gathered in front of the airport yesterday as hundreds of police from Samut Prakan province and soldiers manned all entrances. Apiwan's body arrived at the airport at 3.20pm on flight TG 621 from the Philippines.
Among the UDD leaders at the airport were chairman Jatuporn Prompan, secretary-general Natthawut Saikuar, core member Weng Tojirakarn and former chairpersons Tida Tawornseth and Veerakan Musikapong.
The red shirts sang Naksu Thulee Din (Dirt Fighter) to mourn the late UDD leader who was on the run following the May 22 coup. Mr Jatuporn said they were at the airport to pay their respects. He said he told the national police chief there was no political agenda, who agreed that officers would help with traffic control and transportation of the body.
Apiwan, a former deputy house speaker, died from a lung infection on Oct 6 at the age 65. An outspoken supporter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the UDD movement, he fled Thailand after the May 22 coup and was wanted for lese majeste.
His family will take his body to Wat Bang Phai in Bang Bua Thong district of Nonthaburi, his home province, for funeral rites.
The UDD chairman said red shirts would not hold any special activity for Apiwan but would attend the funeral rites.
Crowds of red shirt supporters were expected at the temple, Mr Jatuporn said.
He said he had told the National Council for Peace and Order not to worry about red-shirt supporters at the funeral because they would do nothing more than pay tribute to and mourn for Apiwan.
The funeral rites will be held over seven days until Oct 18. Former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra is scheduled to attend the funeral today, Mr Jatuporn said. Prayer rites start today and run until Oct 14. They will be held under royal patronage.
The Pheu Thai Party and the UDD will sponsor the funeral rites from Oct 15 to Oct 18. The royally-sponsored cremation will be held on Oct 19.