Soldiers, Cops Crash Redshirt New Year Party

Redshirt supporters rally in Chiang Mai province on March 8, 2014

SAMUT SONGKHRAM — A holiday bash organized by Redshirts in Samut Songkhram province got a surprise visit from unexpected guests Sunday – soldiers and police.

Shortly after the men in brown and green arrived, the owner of the venue, a restaurant, reportedly asked the Redshirts to leave. The party was over.

A police officer confirmed Monday that security forces were sent to the Chawlay Restaurant “to observe” the scene, though he denied they shut down the party and suggested the management was worried their feast could violate the junta’s ban on political gatherings.

“I think it was the restaurant themselves who made the decision, because of the NCPO order,” Col. Chatchapol Somkaew said, referring to the junta’s formal name. “The restaurant was afraid there might be problems.”

Chatchapol, who’s in charge of Samut Songkhram City Police Station, said local officers, army soldiers and Special Branch Police were dispatched to the establishment.

“We were there to see if there was any violation. We took photos,” the police colonel said.

The gathering was organized through social media by a Redshirt group in Samut Songkhram province. The organizer, Suwanna Tallek, told Prachatai the security officers pressured the restaurant owner into calling off the party. Suwanna could not be reached for comment as of press time.

The Redshirt movement, which supports the civilian government toppled in the May 2014 coup, has been under intense monitoring by the junta since the putsch.

Redshirt leader Thida Thavornseth said it was “ridiculous” that security officers would be alarmed by a New Year party at a time of authoritarian rule.

“It’s been three years since the coup. People are so used to it now. Why are they being so diligent right now? It’s ridiculous,” Thida said. “They were only meeting for seasonal celebrations.”

Thida said she and other Redshirt activists held a private New Year party at their TV station yesterday without any interference. She suspected the authorities monitor events that are organized online.

“These agencies get excited when they work on social media,” Thida said. “Whenever people set things up through social media, it stokes their fears.”