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article imageOp-Ed: Are the new H1N1 cases in Thailand an attempt at crowd control?

By R. C. Camphausen     Mar 23, 2010 in Health
News makes the rounds that a journalist and a member of Bangkok's Red Shirt demonstrators have come down with A (H1N1). As the so-called protester turns out to be employed by the government, this can look like a convenient way to end to the protests.
Thailand's The Nation reported that a red-shirt demonstrator was receiving treatment for influenza A (H1N1), also known as swine-flu, at a state hospital, citing that Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanisit had confirmed that a 40-year-old red shirt had come down with the disease.
This followed an announcement that a journalist covering the Red Shirt demonstrations had also contracted the feared H1N1. That again had been preceded by warnings, last week, that the collection of protester's blood could pose a health hazard, a warning by the Red Cross and other institutions that had been given much coverage in the media.
However, the protesters did go ahead with their action, both fanciful and radical, and they spilled their collective blood on government buildings as well as on the private residence of the current prime minister.
In other reports, however, it becomes clear that the so-called red shirt now in hospital is an employee of Thailand's Interior Ministry who was at the demonstrations in order to monitor the crowd. Details of his specific tasks are not given, but I don't think we need any.
Readers who have missed this part of the news, perhaps because it happens in far-away Thailand and seems to have no direct effect on their lives, can get a bit more background in my earlier report here on Digital Journal.
While I'm not given to easy conspiracy theories, I nevertheless think that the H1N1 scare may be a well thought out way to end the protests without loosing face. After all, the protesters rightly demand the government to step down, not only because they want their previous Prime Minister back, Thaksin Shinawatra, but also because the current government is not a democratically elected one but was installed after a military coup.
Now considering that the protest have been going on for a solid ten days and show few sign of abating, it is rather plausible that some smart member of government conceived of the idea 'let's disperse the crowd for reasons that look most acceptable ... a public health hazard.
In any case, it has been officially confirmed that the infected man is not a red shirt, and that it is completely unknown whether or not he contracted the virus during the protests.
Malinee Suvejworakit, a deputy governor of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, told a press conference that the man is not a protester as earlier announced by the Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit.
She said it has yet to be established as to whether the man got the A(H1N1) flu from his home province of Phetchaburi or from the rally site when he was deployed to help security officials to monitor the situation.
One has to wait and see how it all plays out ...
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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