Wednesday, January 09, 2008

State provides full-time protection at home and in self-exile


State provides full-time protection at home and in self-exile


Police officers are frequently assigned as bodyguards, accompanying important people both at home and abroad.

Many officers consider it a tiresome task, but this may not be the case with Pol Lt-Col Wathunyu Withayapalothai.

He seems to enjoy the luxury of going on foreign jaunts and providing protection for deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been in selfimposed exile overseas since the Sept 19, 2006 coup.

For quite a while now, Pol Lt-Col Wathunyu has been seen following Mr Thaksin and his wife Khunying Potjaman everywhere they go, including in London. He was with her when she returned to Bangkok from Hong Kong yesterday.

Pol Lt-Col Wathunyu Withayapalothai, Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra's full-time bodyguard, opens the car door for her as she arrives at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Holders of Political Positions yesterday. He has long been assigned to Mr Thaksin and his wife, even during their self-exile abroad. — PHRAKRIT JUNTHAWONG

It is not widely realised that Mr Thaksin has had state-paid bodyguards accompanying him over the 15 months of his self-exile.

Pol Maj-Gen Tritos Ronritthichai, deputy chief of the Special Branch police, insisted Mr Thaksin and his family had the right to police protection. And it was the bodyguards' job to go abroad with their charges when necessary, he said.

The general public could also ask for police bodyguards, he added.

Pol Maj-Gen Tritos said the Royal Thai Police Office will consider paying the travel expenses and other costs of officers acting as bodyguards abroad on a case-by-case basis.

Pol Lt-Gen Watcharapong Prasarnrajakij, assistant national police chief, said officers who previously acted as Mr Thaksin's bodyguards when he was prime minister were brought in to provide protection for Khunying Potjaman when she returned to Thailand yesterday.

A source at the Metropolitan Police Bureau said security measures were now in place to prevent possible public disturbances by either opponents or supporters of the Shinawatra family.

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