Security, body armor and red shirts

28 11 2009

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been harassed by red shirts in many of few provincial visits he has made since becoming premier. We think ministers should be able to visit the countryside. However, it is a measure of the current political conflict and of the dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Democrat Party and Abhisit came to control government that the prime minister can only visit some parts of the country with a huge security force.

The Nation (29 November 2009: “Ministers also cancel Chiang Mai trips”) reports that after Abhisit canceled his Chiang Mai visit, so did coalition partner Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul and Commerce Minister Porntiva Nakasai. The big name Democrat who did show up was ASEAN secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who seems to be a kind of prime ministerial shadow, following Abhisit around and now de facto filling in for him.

The tactic of chasing ministers out of various areas or preventing them speaking was pioneered by the People’s Alliance for Democracy in the south. At that time, the Democrat Party’s leaders like Suthep Taugsuban considered such events as an expression of public sentiment (see the Bangkok Post and Nation for July 2008). Now that they are being chased about, Democrat ministers and their coalition allies seem to see conspiracies rather than any expression of public views….

The Nation’s report adds that “security has been stepped up for Abhisit in Bangkok. During his visit with “students, volunteers and soldiers to clean up the city moats” he was reported to be wearing “soft armour” under a T-shirt. It is also said that some security personnel were deployed to “high buildings to safeguard him.” Would this be snipers of the kind seen in American movies?

Meanwhile, red shirts from Chiang Mai, Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae and Nan staged a rally in Chiang Mai. The report says that police maintained a heavy presence in Chiang Mai (related, see this video). They were said to have set up “many checkpoints on highways leading to the city to scrutinise protesters who were travelling to join the protest.” The idea was to check for “arms and illegal items, but [they] did not find any.”

Update: Prime Minister Abhisit has “denied reports that he had donned a bullet-proof vest while performing official business on Saturday, saying he wore only a T-shirt and singlet.  He insisted that if reporters had asked him, he would have proven that he was not using body armour.” He suggested that maybe he was gaining weight (Nation, 30 November 2009).

The forever “acting government spokesman” Panitan Wattanayagorn said the premier “did not wear soft protective clothing even though there had been reports of a possible assassination attempt. His security guards also insisted he did not wear such a thing.”



One response

12 12 2009
New: A different kind of body armor « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Not that long ago PPT pointed to a story alleging that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was wearing light body armor when engaged in public duties. He later denied the claim. The Nation now claims that Abhisit has a […]

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