No more than 20,000 at rally, predict security agencies

No more than 20,000 at rally, predict security agencies

Govt source says students not in same league as professional protesters, and bloodshed is unlikely

Anti-government demonstrators led by the Free People group gather at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok on Aug 16. The group has demanded the government dissolve parliament, draw up a new constitution and end threats to its critics. WICHAN CHAROENKIATPAKUL
Anti-government demonstrators led by the Free People group gather at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok on Aug 16. The group has demanded the government dissolve parliament, draw up a new constitution and end threats to its critics. WICHAN CHAROENKIATPAKUL

Govt source says students not in same league as professional protesters, and bloodshed is unlikely.

The source said there was nothing to worry about regarding the planned rally at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus, with no more than 20,000 people expected to attend the rally as with the previous protest at Democracy Monument on Aug 16.

"It is unlikely that the protesters will be tough enough to camp out for long periods like the now-dissolved People's Democratic Reform Committee or the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).

"Violence is unlikely to occur. There will be no bloodshed. Security agencies believe that if the protesters plan to camp out, it will last no more than a night and not many people will take part," the source said.

"Violence must be instigated by professionals. But these student-led protesters are not in the same league," the source said.

Stithorn Thananithichote, an academic at the Research and Development Office at King Prajadhipok's Institute, echoed the view, saying he believed nothing much would happen during the planned rally.

He noted that the rally is led by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), with Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak among the student leaders.

The UFTD acts separately from other formal student organisations, some of which do not agree with the group's 10-point manifesto, including demands for reform of the monarchy, Mr Stithorn said, adding that this group is not a major one and cannot control other student organisations.

He said that the UFTD-led rally planned for this coming Saturday is unlikely to draw a huge turnout, compared to previous demonstrations led by the Free People Group and the Student Federation of Thailand, which command large numbers of supporters.

Jade Donavanik, a legal expert and former adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee, said that the demonstration planned for Saturday was initially expected to see "mature and seasoned" protest leaders join the rally.

Previously, Jatuporn Prompan, chairman of the UDD, said he would lead the UDD supporters to join the rally as long as the UFTD leaders would avoid commenting on the monarchy. However, Mr Jatuporn said the UDD is not sure it will participate if hard-core UFTD protest leaders want to take aim at the institution.

Mr Jade noted that the UFTD protest leaders, particularly Mr Parit, are known to be independent-minded and hard to control.

Mr Parit has been engaged in student activism since he was a high school student. He, along with only a few friends, came out to protest against the coup-makers after the May 2014 putsch, Mr Jade said.

However, Mr Jade said that a fairly large number of people are expected to attend the Saturday rally, and police must exercise a degree of patience. He also said Thammasat University executives must enure the ban on students gathering at its Tha Prachan campus this Saturday is strictly obeyed.


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