PM rejects martial law talk

PM rejects martial law talk

Prayut shrugs off five-day rally threat

Anti-government protesters occupy the road outside the head office of Siam Commercial Bank near Ratchayothin intersection. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Anti-government protesters occupy the road outside the head office of Siam Commercial Bank near Ratchayothin intersection. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday reiterated that martial law will not be invoked to quell the anti-government protests, saying the normal existing measures are enough to deal with those who break the law.

Asked by reporters about martial law, Gen Prayut said he had not considered it, and current laws were enough to handle the protesters.

He made the remarks after a meeting of the US-Asean Business Council at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The prime minister said he explained the protests to the meeting. "In a democratic world, I cannot get everyone to agree with me. All I can do is to find a way to move forward together to avoid problems in the future," he said.

The prime minister also shrugged off a protesters' plan to hold rallies for five consecutive days, saying: "Just let them announce it. The law is there to punish anyone who breaks it,'' Gen Prayut said.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said Wednesday's rally was similar to previous protests and did not warrant martial law enforcement.

"Please stop talking about martial law because the prime minister already said martial law will not be declared,'' Mr Wissanu said.

In a Line group for the Ratsadon protest movement, shared with reporters, the administrator said the protest group will hold rallies for five consecutive days, without encamping overnight.

Details of rally sites and times will be available on the group's other social media platforms such as Facebook.

The five-day rally plan comes after the group on Tuesday night changed its rally site from the Crown Property Bureau to the head office of the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) near Ratchayothin intersection.

The group claimed the change of venue was intended to avoid a confrontation with opposing groups.

Anti-government protesters rallied in front of SCB Park, the headquarters of the SCB in Chatuchak district on Wednesday, under the watchful eye of border patrol police lining the fence. Traffic along the road heading to Prachanukul intersection came to an abrupt halt as protesters thronged the area.

Demonstrators and rally guards erected metal barriers on the road at Ratchayothin intersection leading to Lat Phrao intersection, to prevent vehicles from turning left to the gathering site on Ratchadaphisek Road. Motorists could only go straight to Kaset intersection.

Leading protest members on the back of a truck with loudspeakers took turns lambasting the government. Protest co-leader Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak arrived about 3pm in a yellow duck suit.

Holding a sign saying "Citizen Area", the student activist said the rally initially planned in front of the Crown Property Bureau had been moved to SCB Park to avoid any possible violence.

Commenting on the police decision to press charges against protest leaders under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, or the lese majeste law, Mr Parit said the move was intended to render the protest group leaderless.

But this would not work because it would only attract more rally participants, he said. At least 12 core leaders of the anti-government movement have been summonsed to face lese majeste charges.

Social critic Sulak Sivaraksa, who also attended the rally, condemned the use of Section 112 against protest leaders and urged demonstrators to pressure Gen Prayut into resigning.

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