Police out in force at Royal Plaza

Police out in force at Royal Plaza

Crowds hope to deliver letter to palace

LGBTQ activists carry a giant rainbow banner during the Pride Parade as they march towards Silom on Saturday night.
LGBTQ activists carry a giant rainbow banner during the Pride Parade as they march towards Silom on Saturday night.

Around 15 companies of crowd control police will be deployed at the Royal Plaza and the Bureau of the Royal Household to maintain law and order during today's rally by anti-government protesters.

Deputy Commander of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Pol Col Jirasan Kaewsaeng-ek said police expect the protesters will march on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to either the Royal Plaza or the Bureau of the Royal Household. A national security unit had prepared negotiating teams to talk with the protesters to minimise the rally's adverse impacts on the general public, he said. Sources said police would strictly prohibit the protesters from demonstrating within a 150m-radius of HM the King's palace.

Metal barriers would be set up between the anti-government protesters who will gather in front of McDonald's and a group of royalists who intend demonstrating on the opposite side of the monument to reduce confrontation, the sources added. The anti-government People's Party says it will rally at Democracy Monument, reiterating their demand for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a charter rewrite and reform of the monarchy. It would also march to "an undisclosed location".

Pol Col Watcharawee Thamsema, commander of Special Branch Division 3, said on Friday that a combined force of 300 officers from the Special Branch and Metropolitan Police Bureau would be on duty at Government House.

However, Gen Prayut, who also serves as defence minister, had not issued any special instructions for handling the protesters, he said.

Police had requested 55 public buses from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to support their task of "facilitating traffic" at the pro-democracy rally at Democracy Monument. The request was opposed by the BMTA labour union, saying that acquiescing would give the impression the public agency is taking political sides. Army chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae, his deputy Gen Thammanoon Withee and commander of the 1st Army Area Command Lt Gen Charoenchai Hinthao have been reportedly monitoring the rally plans with officers from the army operations centre.

The Facebook fan page of the Free Youth group posted a message inviting people to join the demonstration. It said a letter listing their demands would be submitted to HM the King via the Office of His Majesty's Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Privy Council as well as the PM. The letter also says the protesters do not want a violent confrontation and will call on the government to stop hurting the people and violating their rights.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the government has not prepared any special measures to handle the protesters. Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon asked that all aides abide by the law and demonstrate peacefully.

Regarding the protesters' demand, Mr Anucha said there were procedures to hear their opinions. They could rally but should avoid seditious acts and confrontations during this period when the country was in the process of finding solutions to the political problem, he said.

Hundreds of protesters on Saturday afternoon gathered at the Samyan intersection in Bangkok to join the Pride Parade. The parade marched to Silom Soi 2 where they set up a rally stage calling for democracy and gender equality. Meanwhile, another group of students called Nakrian Tai (Free Students) announced they would join the People's Movement in its protests.

In a related development meant, Sen Kittisak Rattanawaraha said a group of senators, himself included, would ask the Constitutional Court to rule whether the six charter bills proposed by the government and the opposition were against the constitution. They would ask the court whether a referendum must be held before parliament could vote to whether to consider the bills in principle, he said.

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