Police brace for city protests
Security ramped up in three districts as anti-government groups prepare rallies
- Published: 3/08/2013 at 09:56 PM
- Online news:
Security was stepped up Saturday night in Dusit, Phra Nakhon and Pomprap Sattruphai districts of Bangkok under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for Sunday's rally by various anti-government groups.
KICK OFF: A police officer posing as a protester does a jump-kick at a police shield during a security drill outside parliament Saturday, in preparation for Sunday's rally by anti-government groups in Bangkok. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Eleven police companies were deployed at various locations in the three districts to reinforce city police Saturday afternoon, police peace-keeping command spokesman Piya Uthayo said.
These forces will man checkpoints, monitor important government establishments and provide security to important persons, he said.
Beyond this sign is a "Strictly restricted area" around parliament and the Ratchawithi Zoo, where police could deploy anti-riot forces including tear gas. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)
Another batch of police has been put on high alert and will be mobilised within three hours if violence flares, he said.
He was speaking after national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew, chief of the police peace-keeping command, called a meeting with concerned parties to assess the situation.
The security beef-up has been in place since Thursday even though it is not known where various anti-government groups would rally.
- Voranai Commentary: Politics or principle?
The ISA will stay in place until Saturday.
The target of the anti-government rally is an amnesty bill proposed by Pheu Thai MP for Samut Prakan Worachai Hema which is set to be deliberated by the House of Representatives on Wednesday and Thursday.
Critics of the Worachai bill say it offers broad coverage of those accused of taking part in political violence since 2006.
Pol Maj Gen Piya said about 4,000-5,000 people are likely to take part in today's demonstration.
It is likely they would split into small groups and rally at different locations, he said.
"The number of the demonstrators depends on the political factor," he said, apparently referring to politicians who support the rally.
The Democrat Party earlier this week announced it was mulling organising a street rally to oppose the amnesty bill.
Pol Maj Gen Piya said the situation has remained normal so far, as no demonstrators had entered the three districts under the ISA.
He said a group of people was gathering at the statue of King Rama VI in front of Lumpini Park on Rama IV Road.
It is believed to be a rally site of the "People's Army Against the Thaksin Regime" group.
Pol Maj Gen Piya said the Metropolitan Police Division 5 has been assigned to monitor the situation.
Security covering the residence of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in Wang Thong Lang district is also being stepped up.
Journalists were asked Saturday to leave the area to make way for new security arrangements ordered by Metropolitan Police Division 4 commander Naiwat Padermchit.
Earlier, Pheu Thai list-MP Weng Tojirakarn claimed the People's Army Against the Thaksin Regime planned to capture the prime minister, the House speaker and his two deputies to prevent the House meeting from debating the amnesty bill on Aug 7.
However, Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard played down the mass rally threat, saying it was unlikely to force political changes.
"I think it will end as quickly as it starts," he said.
"That's why yellow-shirt leader [Sondhi Limthongkul] decided not to join."
Two media professional bodies have worked out measures with the police to ensure safety for reporters covering the protest.
The Thai Broadcast Journalists Association and the Thai Journalists Association have met the police and agreed on safety measures for reporters.
The associations issued a joint statement Saturday explaining that reporters were entitled to full security protection.
Whether or not they wear the reporter's arm band - which allows authorities to identify them in case chaos erupts - the reporters are not regarded as protesters and they must be protected.
Nonetheless, the associations urged the reporters to wear the arm bands and carry keep their reporter's ID cards on their person.
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