In the Dan Sai region of north-east Thailand, a bitter war is continuing against communist insurgents.
TV ZOOM IN Armed Red Guards in foreground over-looking road building operations below
SV Red Guards patrol past bulldozers
CU Red Guards patrolling through undergrowth
SV & CU PAN Guards watching form hill-top camp (2 shots)
CU Red Guards holding variety of weapons(4 shots)
SV Red Guards patrolling past wrecked bulldozer
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Background: In the Dan Sai region of north-east Thailand, a bitter war is continuing against communist insurgents. At the centre of the struggle are a private army, the Red Guard, an extreme right-wing organisation claiming more than ten thousand members throughout the country.
The Red Guard was formed following a split in the Thai student movement after the uprising of October 1972. Leaders of the private army claim that Thai student organisers are now attempting to lead the country into communism.
In Dan Sai, the volunteer troops are acting as security guards for a road construction company trying to drive a highway through the rugged mountainous region, deep into communist strongholds. The contractors say they need the extra protection as Thai regular army forces are unable to prevent continuing attacks on building and other construction projects. Many contractors have been forced to abandon front-line work in communist-overrun areas ... and even the vigilance of the Red Guards in Dan Sai could not forestall the destruction of three costly bulldozers three weeks ago.
Members of the Red Guard wear army camouflage uniforms, proclaim allegiance to the Thai nation, the Buddhist religion and the Thai monarchy. They all carry United states-built weapons, including M-16 automatic rifles and grenade launchers. Some Red Guards say they own their weapons, others that arms and ammunition are on loan from the regular Thai army.
The Thai government has more than 40,000 troops engaged in counter-insurgency operations in the remote areas of the north, north-east and south of the country. They estimate that there are some six thousand armed insurgents active in these regions, with many groups controlling sections of the local population. Despite in injecting a vast 75 million pounds sterling (157.5 million U.S. dollars) into the anti-communist drive, the government seems unable to control the insurgents.
The Red Guard steps in when and where it feels it is most valuable in the fight. What the irregular troops may lack in parade ground discipline, they make up in battle experience. Many acted as mercenaries in the other wars in Indochina, and their leader took part in every anti-communis front in neighbouring Laos.
But the existence of the Red Guard could prove a dangerous threat to the Thai government itself. Already members have used fire-bombs and grenades in Bangkok, and have provoked fights during student demonstrations in the capital.
Tolerance of private armies like the Red Guard appears to a covert admission by Thai authorities that regular military forces cannot cope with the dangerous insurgency problem.