Gloves Are Off Once Again As Police Failed to Arrest Red Shirt Leader, Military Takes Over Operation

[youtube=]Video by Asian Correspondent via YouTube After a few days of pause during the Songkran holidays, the gloves are off again between the red shirts and the security forces.

We used to the Thai police for being not the most effective force in the world and today's 'skillful' display of 'determination' would have been even better executed by Carey Mahoney's squad.

The Nation thankfully already has written about the Schadenfreude inducing events of today.

Arisman Pongruangrong and other red-shirt leaders on a wanted list could not be apprehended when they were in full public view in the middle of the city, so what convinced Thai police that they could catch them by storming a hotel that once belonged to Thaksin Shinawatra? (...)

Not to mention that two senior officers were taken by the red mob from the hotel to the Rajprasong rally site to "guarantee" the escapees' safe return. How come what was supposed to be a pre-dawn sting operation ended with Arisman staging the escape just before 10am and mobs accompanying all the police targets back to Rajprasong at noon? (...)

The operation reportedly started at 3am, with stake-out forces stationing themselves near the hotel's entrances and exits, with a few disguising themselves as guests. Problem was, nobody knew for sure which rooms the targets - Arisman, Suporn Attawong, Payap Panket and Jeng Dokjik - were staying in. The four reportedly arrived at the hotel at around 4am.

Then around 6am another group of officers, purportedly working for an assistant police chief, arrived. One of them then committed a grave blunder by asking the hotel reception for house keys that could open all suspicious rooms.

That apparently did it. Phone calls must have been made by certain staff members and within minutes red shirts living nearby were gathering at the hotel. By the time the two groups of officers became aware of each other's presence, the hotel was crawling with red shirts. (...)

The police called their superiors and requested commando reinforcements. Through all these hectic developments, the hotel staff managed to buy time and kept the house keys away from the now restless, and pretty much clueless, officers.

When the policemen finally got hold of the keys, Arisman was already playing a Mission Impossible hero, albeit with some difficulty due to his weight. His face was white and he appeared disoriented once he dropped himself to safety, into numerous red hands waiting to grab him on the ground.

"An embarrassing fiasco for govt", The Nation, April 16, 2010

Arisman Pongruengrong, a former singer turned activist, is one of the more radical persons inside the red shirt movement and is also believed to have stirred up the emotions at the storm onto the parliament, which then triggered the state of emergency.

It didn't take long after the botched arrest attempt for the red shirts to take offense in this and soon after that Arisman appeared on stage and more or less declared open season on prime minister Abhisit.

Speaking of Abhisit, he has made his first public appearance after days of suspicious absence and his response to the embarrassment was somehow unprecedented.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, speaking in a special television broadcast on all stations, said Gen. Anupong Paochinda would take charge of the peacekeeping force meant to prevent violence by red-shirted protesters who are seeking to topple his government.

"A decision has been made to make the command line more effective and swifter," Abhisit said. "Therefore I have made an order to change the person in charge to Anupong, the army commander."

Anupong's appointment sends a signal that Abhisit is willing to raise the stakes in his standoff with the tens of thousands of mostly rural protesters camping in the Thai capital by letting the army take direct charge of security. Thai media have reported widely that junior commanders are itching to move against the protesters.

"Thai army chief takes charge of restoring order", by Associated Press, April 16, 2010

Bangkok Pundit has more quotes and also analyses what this move could mean for the next few days.