Military giving protesters latitude, but not 'rioters'

Military giving protesters latitude, but not 'rioters'

Soldiers will step in to handle political protests only when the situation is considered a rebellion or a riot, Defence Forces chief Gen Chalermpol Srisawat said on Tuesday.

He said the announcement by the Thalu Gas group, now renamed the People's Revolutionary Alliance (PRA), about aiming to overthrow the constitutional monarchy was a lawful expression of the group's opinion.

The responsibility of the police is to ensure law and order, he said. So if the group were to act in any way that threatens Thailand's sovereignty, it would then be time for the military to take action, he said.

In the event of a small-scale riot erupting, the military can only play a minor role in supporting the police's efforts to contain it, he said.

Pol Gen Suwat Jangyodsuk, the national police chief, insisted the situation was under control and said no riots are anticipated. He said the police have been operating efficiently, as reflected in the declining number of people at street protests, as well as a rise in arrests.

"As our law-enforcement efforts continue, were are seeing more legal action against those who continue to break the law, he said. "So please think twice before instigating violence among young protesters."

Although the police are satisfied with their crowd control operations and do not expect any escalation, he said there was no room for complacency.

The situation will not become serious enough to impact the plan to reopen the country on Nov 1, Pol Gen Suwat said.

However, he admitted it might not be possible to completely suppress the protests.

Meanwhile, the Cyber Crime Investi­- gation Bureau has been asked to investigate a new Facebook page operated by the Thalu Gas group over content related to the monarchy, said Pol Maj Gen Jirasan Kaewsaeng-ek, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MPB).

The page, Phakhi Patiwat Prachachon Thai (Alliance of Thai People for Reform), said its goal is to overthrow what it described as a royalist dictatorship.

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