Bangkok: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva visited the north of the country amid heavy security Saturday after receiving death threats over a planned trip to a stronghold of ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Some 1,500 police were sent to guard Abhisit as he toured the three northern provinces of Sukhothai, Phitsanulok and Phichit, to inspect government works.
A supporter of fugitive Thaksin has reportedly used his radio show to threaten Abhisit with a car bomb when he travels to the northern city of Chiang Mai for a commerce meeting next Sunday.
The city is a stronghold for Thaksin loyalists, known as Red Shirts, who want to see the former leader return from his self-imposed exile as he dodges a jail term for graft.
A member of Abhisit's Democrat party, Boonyod Sooktinthai, said he had filed a police complaint against Red Shirt leader Petchawat Wattanapongsirikul for comments made on a community radio station earlier this month.
"In the radio clip that we obtained, Petchawat on November 3 said that a car bomb is ready to kill Abhisit when he arrives in Chiang Mai," MP and party spokesman Boonyod said.
He said that in another show on November 13 the community radio presenter called on Red Shirts in the north to rally in Chiang Mai during the visit and again threatened Abhisit's life.
Petchawat could not be reached for comment, but fellow Red Shirt leader Jatuporn Prompan accused the Democrats of playing politics by overemphasising the risk of violence.
Government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said that the government was continuing to assess the threat but Abhisit said his travel plans would not change and downplayed the risk.
"Nothing has changed. The security officials will take care of it. This kind of threat occurs from time to time," Abhisit told reporters on Friday.
Supporters of Thaksin are planning to demonstrate against the government in Bangkok during Abhisit's trip to the north, gathering for five days from November 28.
The Red Shirts say Abhisit's government is illegitimate as it came to power after a controversial court ruling that forced Thaksin's allies from office.
The kingdom has been wracked by months of rival street protests.
Thai society is deeply divided between those who love or loathe the populist billionaire Thaksin, who was deposed in a coup in 2006.
First Published: Saturday, November 21, 2009, 13:20