Daily Archives: June 19, 2011

PM Abhisit gets warm welcome in Samut Prakan

All Thai politicians at the moment have a very busy schedule of election campaigning. Most of the candidates only have to campaign in their own constituency. However, the big party list names have been travelling around Thailand in order to help drum up support for local candidates. The other day I told you about my experience when I joined Korn Chatikavanij on the Election Campaign Trail in my local area. Today was the turn of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to visit Samut Prakan.

Korn Chatikavanij is the Finance Minister in the caretaker government. He has a high profile and so he has his own bodyguard. Even so, local police made sure that he had additional security while he toured the constituency. On the other hand, Abhisit is the prime minister and his security detail is always much larger. Samut Prakan police were also out in force today along the entire route. I didn’t get a total but there must have been more than 500 policemen, not including undercover.

PM Abhisit spent nearly four hours travelling around Samut Prakan on top of this converted pick-up truck. When Yingluck arrived at Paknam Market (see here) she came in an air-conditioned SUV. We were all expecting her to arrive on one of the big campaign trucks. However, she did get a big welcome which is what we expected. We were all curious to what kind of greeting the Prime Minister would get. As you can see here, there were just as many people welcoming Abhisit as there were for Yingluck, if not more.

The police were really expecting trouble along the way. Although there were some Red Shirt protesters (see here) they were few in number and scattered. I noticed a number of times police standing guard near anyone that was grouped by the side of the road. I had always thought that motorcycle taxi drivers were Thaksin supporters. So, I wasn’t surprised when we neared one group of drivers and they had three policemen standing around them. But when Abhisit smiled and gave them a “wai” most of them raised ten fingers in support of his party.

Quite a few times during the tour of the province, the campaign truck carrying Abhisit and the local Democrat candidates stopped briefly so that local people could give them flowers. They also gave them water and snacks. At two markets Abhisit got down to have a walk-around and also to give a speech. Immediately he was mobbed by hundreds of people. I am sure that was a nightmare for his security detail. Many people wanted their photo taken with him or wanted to hug or kiss him. And many did much to his embarrassment.

As you can imagine there was a lot of media following Abhisit today. Most of us were on two pick-up trucks. There were also a dozen or so media cars following behind from all the major newspapers and television channels. I was the only foreigner there taking pictures, a fact which wasn’t lost on the Democrat election staff who several times told the crowds, that today news about Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan was going around the world as there is someone from the foreign media. Truth be told, I am not even national media. I was just taking these pictures for my local Thai newspaper.

Red Shirts Protest as Abhisit Tours Samut Prakan

This morning, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva continued on his election campaign trail by visiting Samut Prakan. Large areas in the province have been declared “Red Zones” and as a result of a history of shootings, Samut Prakan has already been declared “Thailand’s most likely scene of poll-related violence”. Which is why the police today weren’t taking any chances.

In Samrong there were police stationed along the road at regular intervals. Down the side roads there was at least one policeman guarding every intersection, big or small. They were also guarding the pedestrian bridges. In addition, there were police standing next to any group that might cause trouble. Plain clothes policeman were also driving ahead on motorcycles videoing the crowd. Abhisit’s own bodyguards were often seen scanning the crowds and rooftops.

There weren’t really that many protesters, but the ones that came out were quickly surrounded by security personnel. Most of their banners were about the 91 deaths during the protests last year. In this picture taken at Samrong, the police were whisking this guy away from the route that Abhisit was taking. He wasn’t arrested though the policeman here was telling me to stop taking pictures.

This one-legged Red Shirt wasn’t moved away but he was quickly surrounded by security personnel. Abhisit passed here a few minutes later and didn’t even see him.  Abhisit has come out in denouncing the bullying tactics of the Red Shirts. Personally I think people have a right to speak their mind. Isn’t that what a democracy is all about?As long as they are doing it in an orderly manner surely they should be allowed to show their banners to Abhisit?

Although there were Red Shirts out protesting Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan, there was no reported violence and certainly no eggs being thrown from what I saw. On the contrary, by far the majority of people gave Abhisit a warm welcome. I was also taking pictures during Yingluck’s visit to Paknam last week. I would say that Abhisit had just as many supporters here as Yingluck, if not more. I will post pictures of Abhisit’s visit to Samut Prakan soon on Thai-Blogs.com.