Prayuth defends troop presence

The army chief insists the army does not take sides and took a sarcastic tone to the premier's suggestion that military bunkers be scaled back and spruced up in some areas of Bangkok.

''Should we decorate them with flowers? How about fitting a pink drape over them?'' said Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha.

He was apparently responding to remarks by caretaker premier Yingluck Shinawatra who told the Defence Council meeting on Tuesday some bunkers should be removed and checkpoints in security-sensitive areas and near rally sites in Bangkok be adjusted to suit the environment.

She said yesterday the sight of many military bunkers might scare tourists and hurt Thailand's image. The military might consider reducing its presence now there is only one rally site at Lumpini Park.

On Feb 28, red-shirt co-leader Jatuporn Prompan said Bangkok was looking more like strife-torn southern border provinces with the bunkers of anti-government protesters and the military seen around town. The military began erecting the bunkers in Bangkok on Feb 11 amid increasing political violence.

Altogether 176 checkpoints were set up around the protest venues, crowded public areas and government offices such as the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitution Court. Security patrols were also conducted more frequently.

Gen Prayuth insisted the troops deployed in the capital remain politically neutral.

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