Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Thailand's Army Takes Over Security

BANGKOK, THAILAND

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Thailand's army is now in direct control of security in Bangkok as anti-government protests continue to disrupt life in the capital.

Army chief Anupong Paojinda replaced Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban as head of the Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations after an embarrassing botched attempt to arrest several leaders of the Red Shirt protesters.

Suthep lost his job as punishment for the debacle, live on television, that happened at Bangkok hotel, the Bangkok Post newspaper said.

Around 500 police and security officials last week advanced on the Park Hotel where they knew several Red Shirts leaders had been staying. But around 2,000 protesters outside and inside the hotel hindered their progress and warned their colleagues who escaped.

Television cameras outside the hotel filmed a Red Shirt leader climbing out a window and lowering himself by rope to the crowd of protesters who whisked him away in a waiting car.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva shortly thereafter went on television to announce the appointment of Anupong. Abhisit said that "unsuccessful efforts taken so far" against the protesters had prompted the government to "review structural issues."

Replacing Suthep would make the chain of command more "effective and swift." Abhisit said the new authority would be able to "call in forces in a more united and integrated way, so that they can handle the terrorism-related activities specifically."

Suthep, 61, has been a controversial figure in the military-backed government of Abhisit. He stepped down from his parliament seat in 2009 after allegations over corruption. A media firm in which he has a stake was accused of receiving government contracts illegally, although nothing was proved.

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