Suthep scoffs at decree

No let-up in protests, PDRC leader insists

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Tuesday night scoffed at the invocation of the emergency decree in Bangkok and surrounding provinces.

He said his supporters are not afraid and the rallies will continue.

"Is there anything that is an emergency in this country?" he said. "We have been protesting for three months already. Why declare an emergency now?"

Addressing the crowd at the Pathumwan stage on Tuesday night following the decision by the caretaker government to invoke a state of emergency, the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) chief vowed to defy all orders issued under the emergency decree.

The Gate Escape: A civil servant from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry leaves the ministry by climbing over its gate as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee surrounds the premises yesterday. APICHART JINAKUL

"We will defy them all," he said. "We will march on every road they have banned [us from marching on]. We will use loudspeakers even if they prohibit us from doing so. We will do everything they forbid us to do."

Previous attempts by the government to impose the emergency decree were blocked by the military. However, Tuesday's decision followed a wave of violent attacks on protesters as their Bangkok shutdown operation entered a second week.

The special law will be in place for 60 days, effective on Wednesday, with caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yubamrung taking charge of the Centre for Peacekeeping. The centre can directly order the army to step up security.

A military source said the armed forces voiced no objection when the enforcement of the emergency decree was raised at the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order meeting.

According to the source, the military understands that the police force needs a tool to help it strictly enforce the law. The decree allows for the detention of suspects for up to 30 days and stricter control of media outlets which are being exploited to deepen divisiveness.

Moreover, military intelligence also found weapons and explosives are being moved into Bangkok.

"The military is aware that the protesters do not trust the police so the police need the military to help coordinate," said the source.

According to the source, even though army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha and Supreme Commander Tanasak Patimapragorn did not attend the meeting, they had talked separately to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

However, the source said the military insists it will not crack down on or confront protesters.

Before the decision was reached, National Security Council secretary-general Paradorn Pattanatabut hinted the emergency law would be necessary after a grenade attack at Victory Monument on Sunday injured 28 people.

Security authorities believed violence would escalate ahead of advance voting on Sunday and the Feb 2 election.

In announcing the enforcement of the state of emergency, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the decree was to help security authorities enforce the laws against offenders and those who provide support to the anti-government protest.

The enforcement of the emergency decree will also "allow the democratic process to move forward", he said. Mr Surapong added that false information aimed at provoking divisiveness was also being widely spread.

He insisted the government would strictly comply with international practices and would not use force to break up the protest.

But protesters saw the decree as a prelude to a crackdown on them.

"Since we are unarmed, the violence must have come from the government." Mr Suthep said.

"We will step up our rallies to counter the emergency decree," he said.

Mr Suthep told protesters at the seven stages to proceed with the operation to lay siege to state agencies. However, the protesters should realise that the emergency decree empowers state authorities to detain and take legal action against lawbreakers.

"So, if any of you are afraid of being arrested, you should go home," he said.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he wondered if the government would use force against the protesters.

Instead of invoking the decree, the government should have reinforced its security forces to ensure safety, he said.

Ms Yingluck said she had stressed to the authorities implementing security measures under the decree that they must carry out their tasks with patience and follow international standards.

Asked whether she feared the use of the decree would lead to similar consequences as in the 2010 crackdown on red-shirt protesters, Ms Yingluck said this was simply a further step in the legal enforcement process and the police would be mainly responsible for it.

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Writer: Patsara Jikkham and Wassana Nanuam