Anti-coup elements in the crosshairs
Surveillance tightened amid 'plots for unrest'
The government has been keeping a close eye on anti-coup elements as reports have emerged that several are planning to sow discord and instigate disturbances, it said Wednesday.
The move comes ahead of a looming cabinet reshuffle. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has already submitted the reshuffle list for royal endorsement, according to reports.
Speaking after the cabinet meeting, Deputy Defence Minister Udomdej Sitabutr said Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has ordered security agencies to closely monitor high-risk political elements.
The Royal Thai Police (RTP) have also issued a circular instructing all agencies under it to conduct surveillance on certain political groups as rumours swirl they are plotting to mobilise their supporters to demonstrate against the government.
However, deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul played down the move, saying similar circulars are issued regularly.
Remaining vigilant to threats to peace and order is part of the police force's normal security watch operations, Pol Gen Srivara said.
Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit have just stressed the need for police to ensure public safety, Pol Gen Srivara added.
The RTP have not yet detected any suspicious activities from leaders of anti-coup elements, he said, adding that many have already been detained.
However, one high-ranking police source said that anti-coup groups both in Thailand and abroad were attempting to undermine the government's stability by using various online and other media to spread false information to local communities and villages.
These groups are waiting for anti-coup sentiment to become widespread before launching demonstrations against the government, the source said.
This prompted deputy national police chief Dejnarong Sutthicharnbancha, acting on behalf of national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda, who is currently on a visit to the United States, to issue an urgent letter to all police units under the RTP to closely monitor and investigate leaders of those groups, the source said.
Top targets include networks of people who provide ideological and financial support, the source added.
The police units include the Metropolitan Police Bureau, all nine provincial police regions, the Central Investigation Bureau, the Immigration Bureau, the Border Patrol Police, the Tourist Police Bureau and the RTP's Special Branch unit.
They have been told to share intelligence work with local governing bodies and agencies.
They have been instructed to report to the national police chief through the commander of the Special Branch every 15 days, starting from the end of this month, the source said.
Korkaew Pikulthong, a key member of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), insisted Wednesday that even though the group has been critical of the government, it has not caused any public disturbances.
But he said the RTP should watch farmers' groups which are demanding the government help solve falling crop prices. Their concerns should be listened to and measures devised to ease their plight, Mr Korkaew said.
Tida Tawornseth, another leading figure in the UDD, questioned the motives of the government given the timing of the latest order.
Ms Tida said the regime should be loosening, not tightening its grip on power and relaxing the ban on political activities as the nation moves toward next November's general election.
However the government has done just the opposite, said Ms Tida.
"I'm starting to wonder whether the poll will be held as promised," she added.
Meanwhile, representatives of fishery associations from 22 provinces gathered at the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry to show their support for Chatchai Sarikulya as rumours swirl he may be among the ministers facing the axe in the looming cabinet reshuffle.
Gen Chatchai said it is the prime minister's responsibility to choose qualified people to fill his cabinet. He said he has worked to the best of his ability to solve illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing issues during his tenure, which has lasted over three years.