Army checkpoints in Bangkok get flowery makeover

AP News
Posted: Mar 07, 2014 7:18 AM
Army checkpoints in Bangkok get flowery makeover

BANGKOK (AP) — Military checkpoints set up in Thailand's capital to keep security during the country's political unrest are getting a makeover in a bid to project a kinder, gentler image, the army said Friday.

Maj. Gen. Wara Boonyasit, a division commander, said soldiers have decorated some bunkers with colorful flowers and potted plants after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra suggested that the 176 checkpoints around Bangkok may be unnerving residents and scaring foreign tourists.

Soldiers were deployed in force around the capital last week after a spate of armed attacks on anti-government demonstrators who are demanding Yingluck's resignation. While the violence has eased, two people were slightly wounded Friday by gunshots fired from a park in the heart of Bangkok that is occupied by the protesters, police said.

Wara said checkpoints — some of which have been decorated with flowerpots — would also be relocated to less prominent locations to become less obtrusive.

Army Commander Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday acknowledged the image-softening effort, joking that the bunkers might be decorated with flowers and pink curtains. But he insisted that soldiers retain their tough military bearing, and not act like fey theatrical performers.

A 31-year-old woman was shot Friday while walking on a street and a taxi driver was wounded in the leg while driving near the protest encampment at Lumpini Park, said police Col. Chaiya Kongsub. He said the bullets came from inside the park, but did not say who fired the shots.

Later Friday, gunshots and a small blast were heard near where protesters had gathered outside a building owned by the family of the prime minister, but no injuries were reported.

Twenty-three people have been killed and hundreds wounded in more than three months of protests in Bangkok and elsewhere in Thailand.