Cops on watch for violent dissent

Cops on watch for violent dissent

Bid to prevent Hong Kong-style mayhem

More than 10,000 demonstrators occupied Ratchadamneon Avenue for a rally against the government on Aug 16. Another major protest is planned for Sept 19. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
More than 10,000 demonstrators occupied Ratchadamneon Avenue for a rally against the government on Aug 16. Another major protest is planned for Sept 19. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Security agencies are keeping an eye on political activities ahead of a planned student rally on Sept 19 to prevent protest actions that may lead to violence and unrest, a source said on Saturday.

Student activists appear keen to maintain the momentum of their movement. Students will be allowed to express their dissent but authorities will keep a close watch for signs of provocation that could cause the protest to get out of hand and become violent, like the Hong Kong protests, said the source.

Police have been told to exercise restraint and avoid confrontation, the source said.

Earlier, the Thammasat group said it would hold a rally at the university's Tha Prachan campus on Sept 19 while the Free People group has yet to announce a date but says it plans to camp out overnight, differing from its usual flash-mob form of protest.

However, the source allayed concerns the student movement will turn violent, saying the government is making an all-out effort to promote mutual understanding, find out where protesters receive rally information, and present facts to counter false information.

Security authorities are also monitoring social activist groups in the provinces such as P-Move, a civic group that monitors public policy on land distribution and reform, said the source.

Some members might consider joining the student rally and turning a flash mob into a protracted one.

According to the source, the student protest issue was brought up at a Friday gathering between Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and armed forces leaders as they met to finalise the annual military reshuffle.

Gen Prayut also voiced concerns that political differences may create divisiveness and rifts as student protests expand to target the authoritarian culture in schools and families.

At schools, many students now regularly flash a three-fingered salute and wear white ribbons in defiance of dictatorship.

The prime minister also asked the armed forces leaders to give a long-term focus on what they could do or how to better engage with the younger generation.

The Assembly of the Poor yesterday pledged to join a mass demonstration in Bangkok once it is called.

In a statement, the group said its members will take part in smaller rallies in the provinces for the time being to push for the three demands -- a new constitution to be drafted, a House dissolution and an end to harassment of student activists.

The group made the move after its secretary-general, Baramee Chairat, was arrested on charges of inciting public unrest and other offences related to the July 18 Free Youth rally. Mr Baramee has been released on bail.

A group of former members of the Human Rights Commission led by Angkhana Neelapaijit, has issued a statement defending the protesters' right to call for institutional reforms.

The group said the proposal was made under the constitution and it was not an act of transgression on the institution.

It also called on the government and the Education Ministry to take action to protect the rights of young people to express their political views.

Meanwhile, it is reported that a rally is being called on Sunday in front of the City Hall by a group of Kasetsart University, Coalition of Bangkok University Students, and Silpakorn Community for Democracy. No estimate of crowd size was available.

However, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration which supervises the area has not yet received any request from the rally's organisers.

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