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Songkran 2010: Northern turmoil boosts Phuket

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PHUKET: With red shirts now rallying in provinces across Thailand’s North and Northeast, Phuket is an increasingly attractive destination for tourists over the upcoming Songkran holiday.

Members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) are gathering in 17 northern provinces to support their fellow protesters in Bangkok, Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul said earlier today.

“Although protests are sprouting up, there are no reports of any danger,” he said, claiming the authorities have control of the situation.

Provincial governors are under instructions to enforce maximum security measures at government installations in their provinces, he said.

Security forces have been tasked with guarding provincial halls (sala klaang) but ordered not to clash with protesters if they stage raids. Security cameras would record incidents for future prosecutions, he said.

Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop told a press conference last Friday that anyone attempting to illegally occupy Phuket Provincial Hall would face prosecution.

The province has an extensive network of CCTV cameras to identify protest leaders who incite violence or other criminal behavior, he said.

“I believe the Phuket people understand the situation and would never do a terrible thing like that… It doesn’t matter what color shirts they wear – yellow, red, pink or green – anyone caught committing acts of violence will be prosecuted,” he said.

“It’s good for Thai people to express their opinions, but they should do so in a non-violent way,” he said.

Gov Wichai said he heard the tourism industry in Chiang Mai had been crippled, with rooms that would normally go for 1,000 baht a night being offered at just 399 baht. The northern province is famous for its Songkran celebrations.

“It’s unbelievable…the protesters may have fun, but businesses will suffer,” he said.

“As for the Songkran Festival, Phuket is relatively free of the political turmoil which has beset other parts of the country… Both Thai and foreign tourists are likely to flock here in record numbers over for the Songkran Festival,” he said.

The grounds of Phuket Provincial Hall were last occupied by political protesters in September 2008, when yellow-shirted People’s Alliance of Democracy (PAD) members set up camp during the premiership of the late Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej.

Although there was no violence, PAD members restricted parking lot access to then-governor Niran Kalayanamit and other high-ranking civil servants. They also conducted body searches of members of the public entering the building to do business.

The protest ended after a few days. Officials at Phuket Provincial Hall allowed PAD members to use the building’s electricity to power their public address system and broadcast PAD protests in Bangkok.

— Atchaa Khamlo & The Nation

 

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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