Updated: Red shirt leaders blocked by military from entering army’s royal park

Update: Voice TV reported on Monday at 9:46 am that many police and military officers were deployed at Mahachai Muang Mai Market in Samut Sakhon Province where Jatuporn, Nattawut, and other UDD members planned to meet before travelling to Rajabhakdi Park. The officers have reportedly taken both Jatuporn and Nattawut into a military van.     

The Thai army has deployed officers around the house where key anti-establishment red shirt leaders are residing as the two plan to visit Rajabhakdi Park.

On Sunday morning, 29 November 2015, Nattawut Saikua, one of the key leaders of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), the main red shirt faction, posted on his Facebook page that several military officers were deployed in a housing estate where he and Jatuporn Prompan, another UDD key leader, were staying.

The officers came to the house a day before a planned Monday visit of the UDD to Rajabhakdi Park, a royal theme park built by the Royal Thai Army in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, to investigate allegations of graft in the one-billion-baht park project.

Nattawut alleged that the deployment seemed to be an attempt by the authorities to prevent him from visiting the park. He, however, posted that he will visit the park as planned no matter what.

“I will visit Rajabhakdi Park. After the news spread, it became troublesome. Since 5 am today [29 November 2015] four military vehicles came to my house. Currently, four officers are in front of the village and eight are around the security guard post,” Nattawut posted on Facebook on Sunday. “Why do they have to use their authority this way?”

Referring to corruption allegations surrounding the park construction, he added “This adds more suspicion in the public’s mind. If there is nothing abnormal, why do they have to do this? I still stand firm that I will visit the park.”

Military officers at the housing estate where Jatuporn and Nattawut were staying on 29 November 2015 (photo from Jutaporn’s facebook)

Previously, the junta spokesman, Col Winthai Suvaree, said that the red shirts should be cautious about their planned visit to the royal park, saying that it could be seen as a political move.

The construction of Rajabhakti Park, a theme park featuring gigantic monuments of seven prominent past monarchs, was constructed by the Thai military. The project, costing about a billion baht (about 28 million USD) was overseen by Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, the current Deputy Defence Minister and former Army Commander-in-chief.

After pressure from the public about the park corruption scandal, the military government set up an internal committee within the Royal Thai Army itself to probe the allegations.

A second investigation committee headed by Gen Preecha Chan-o-cha, the younger brother of Gen Prayut, the junta leader, was appointed last week after the first army probe committee concluded that there was no evidence of corruption in the park construction.

The conclusion of the first investigation committee contradicts the statement of the Deputy Defence Minister who in early November admitted that the project was rife with corruption.

He said that such corruption is common in every sector, adding that the individuals hired by the Army took ‘commissions’ of about 10 per cent from the budget for the park.

Pressed by the media, Gen Udomdej said then that he is uncertain whether the money was returned to the Army, but said that the damage is already mended because the ‘middleman’ on the project had already returned the commission as a ‘donation’.

“I don’t really know the details. But I can certainly explain all of it. It’s about work by different committees. The financial work was handled by the treasury, and the head of army treasury department can certainly explain it,” Khaosod English quoted the Deputy Defence Minister as saying.