ALERT: Army takes over Patong roads
PHUKET: In a bizarre convulsion in Phuket's tourism hot spot, Royal Thai Army troops tonight (June 18) swarmed onto the streets of Patong, setting up road blocks with jeeps and checking under cars with mirrors.
Monday 18 June 2012, 11:15PM
Just why the Army should be deployed on the streets of Patong is not yet clear, but the army has set up blockades, particularly at the intersection of Nanai Rd and Soi Banzaan.
Locals have a theory that this may be a big crackdown on drugs, but questions remain as to why the Army would be involved rather than police, and why they should be equipped with mirrors for examining the underside of vehicles.
Attempts by our journalists to find out what is going on have so far met with a blank wall of silence, and attempts to take photographs have been met with threats of arrest.
A Phuket News contact said that the roadblock at Nanai/Banzaan seemed to be concentrating solely on Thai people, with Westerners being allowed through without being stopped. Soldiers were, however, stopping young teens on motorbikes and even searching every bag being carried on rag pickers' three-wheelers.
"It's really surreal," the contact said. "They're going nuts stopping people. They are stopping anyone changing direction, and checking under every SUV."
He noted that soldiers did not seem to be heavily armed, but were laser-tagging vehicles that had been passed through checkpoints, possibly as a way of letting watchers further down the road know that these vehicles were "clean".
Uniformed police were conspicuous by their absence, the contact said.
We'll let you know more as soon as we hear anything. If readers have anything to add, please let us know by commenting.