Aide of Shinawatras returns as Srettha’s bodyguard

The return of Police Colonel Watanyu Witthaypalothai as a bodyguard for the newly appointed Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin caught the public’s attention this week.

Watanyu reappeared earlier this week as part of the security detail awaiting former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra at Don Mueang Airport when he returned to Thailand after 15 years of self-exile on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Watanyu was seen escorting Srettha to a meeting with his predecessor, Prayut Chan-o-cha at Government House, confirming that he is back as a bodyguard to a Pheu Thai prime minister.

Watanyu was a bodyguard of then prime minister Thaksin in the 90s.

After the military coup ousted Thaksin in 2006, Watanyu was transferred by the national police chief to a police station in Thailand’s most southern province Yala.

He was restored to his position at the Royal Thai Police (RTP) headquarters after the People’s Power Party, the successor of Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party, won the general election in 2007.

He was put in charge of security at the home of Khunying Potjaman Damapong, Thaksin’s ex-wife.

After the Pheu Thai Party swept the general election in 2011 and formed a government led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, Watanyu was assigned to her bodyguard unit on the first day she entered Government House.

When Yingluck was ousted in a military coup in 2014, Watanyu disappeared from public view, but his relationship with the Shinawatra family reportedly remained close.

He also provided protection for Yingluck discreetly.

He was accused of being the person who helped Yingluck sneak out of the country after the Supreme Court sentenced her to five years in prison for corruption in 2017.

Although he adamantly denied the allegation, it led to a disciplinary investigation by the RTP that resulted in his discharge in 2019.

Watanyu appealed and was reinstated two years later.

In 2021 he was promoted to deputy chief of intelligence at the RTP’s Special Branch Bureau. — The Nation/ANN

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