Thai ‘emergency’ cameras watch for Red Shirt uprising

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In the aftermath of the government’s crackdown, the Reds’ UDD is now in limbo.

“We have not met, and we have not been doing anything as an organization,” Mr. Boonpracong said. “We are all on our own, without an organization. Our office has closed down.

“All top 10 [Red] leaders are on the run, or are arrested. Several of them are in jail. We don’t coordinate. Essentially, we don’t exist. We don’t exist.”

During their nine-week protest, which began peacefully on March 12, the Reds demanded that parliament be immediately dissolved and elections be held.

Mr. Abhisit, who took office in December 2008, survived in power by obliterating the Reds’ blockade, but the government and military now fear another uprising by frustrated Reds.

Today, inside a small secretive room, Thai police monitor a slew of closed-circuit TV cameras that display the upscale streets where thousands of Red Shirts lived for weeks behind barricades made of bamboo poles and tires.

The police cameras now show the Ratchaprasong area filled with shoppers, tourists and vehicles, after cleaners removed bloodstains, burned rubble, graffiti and bullet holes.

“We have 68 cameras in the Ratchaprasong area, and there will be more cameras installed,” Chai Srivikorn, president of the Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association, said in an interview.

During their blockade, Red Shirts tied plastic bags over many of the earlier-installed cameras, blinding police monitors, Mr. Chai said.

To thwart such future civil disobedience, technicians are installing better cameras high atop Ratchaprasong’s tall buildings and “other places where they cannot reach,” and using wireless cameras with “a very high zoom power” to observe everyone along the commercial zone where the Reds were encamped behind barricades, he said.

“If it is an organized movement, [protesters] will identify any camera that they can reach,” he said. “So to defend them, and make that more secure, it has to be high up where they cannot access. So that’s why we have to put more cameras there.”

Ratchaprasong’s cameras and operating costs are funded privately by building owners, but stream digital video only to police, he said.

The government “plans for 10,000 cameras” to be installed elsewhere across Bangkok, including where other deadly clashes occurred.

“But that is a different [system]; it is more like at intersections” to monitor large crowds and traffic, Mr. Chai said.

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