Heavy police presence for student rally

Heavy police presence for student rally

2,000 officers set to 'maintain order'

Police stand guard as anti-government demonstrators gather at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok on Aug 16. WICHAN CHAROENKIATPAKUL
Police stand guard as anti-government demonstrators gather at the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Bangkok on Aug 16. WICHAN CHAROENKIATPAKUL

More than 2,000 police officers will be drafted in to maintain order during the student-led anti-government demonstration planned for Saturday.

Pol Maj Gen Somprasong Yenthuam, deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau (MBP), said on Tuesday that police are fully prepared to provide safety and direct traffic during the Saturday rally led by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, which has vowed to hold the rally at Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus in Bangkok.

The university has denied protesters permission to use its grounds for the rally.

The deputy commissioner warned the protesters to gather peacefully in line with the law otherwise police will take action against them.

Commenting on the protesters' plan to rally at the adjacent Sanam Luang if they cannot enter the university, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said space is registered as a historic site and such a move could violate the law.

It will be also be illegal for the protesters to storm Government House, Pol Maj Gen Somprasong said, adding that the government and police were not threatening people.

According to a police source, the MPB will deploy three companies of crowd control officers (450) on the university campus, six companies (900) around Sanam Luang, and three companies (450) around Government House. Another two companies (300) from the Royal Thai Police's Special Branch Bureau (SBP) will also be stationed at Government House.

Pol Col Watcharawee Thamsema, commander of the SBP's third division, said Prime Minister Chan-o-cha has instructed police to keep the protesters from reaching Government House.

According to the public assembly law, they must be at least 50 metres away from the premises, which means they would be allowed to reach as far as Makawan Rangsan Bridge, Pol Col Wartcharawee said.

Gen Prayut said on Tuesday the government will do its best to provide protection for protesters, adding that police have been instructed to avoid clashing with them.

He also urged all involved to keep an eye out for "third parties" who could step in and instigate violence during the rally.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said on Tuesday that the government is prepared to handle an influx of protesters from other provinces travelling to the capital to join the demonstration.

Gen Prawit said intelligence agencies had told him how many protesters would come, and also from which provinces.

"You can be sure we can handle the situation," he said.

Commenting on a report that suggested protesters will be allowed to use Sanam Luang, Gen Prawit said everything must fall under the framework of the law.

In order to do so, protesters are required to lawfully obtain official permission, he said.

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