Bangkok Metropolitan Administration selects 7 protest sites
Measures will 'help ensure public safety'
City Hall has designated seven sites where people can hold demonstrations in Bangkok under the Public Assembly Act, though rally organisers have to seek prior permission and follow related laws.
The announcement has received positive responses from demonstrators, especially those from political groups.
Speaking after signing the announcement on Friday, Bangkok governor Chadchart Sittipunt said designating seven places for public demonstrations would ensure public safety while addressing national security concerns.
The act will help maintain peace and order and good morals, as well as public health, he said, adding it would likewise allow for more convenient use of public space while avoiding infringement on the rights, liberties and dignity of others.
Mr Chadchart said the announcement on venues for public gatherings was unprecedented and City Hall needs to tread carefully.
An assessment will be made one month after the announcement, he said.
"We will wait and see if demonstrators will respect other people's rights. If things turn out fine, this can continue," the governor said.
"We believe if we provide specific places for demonstrations, people will then not take to the streets and block traffic. Mobile toilets will be provided and CCTV cameras are also in place to ensure security."
Mr Chadchart said that demonstrators will still have to follow laws related to demonstrations and police officers will be deployed to maintain order.
He admitted that some attendees at a City Hall meeting disagreed with the move, but he said he believed this plan would provide an outlet for those wanting to express themselves.
"They will have to comply with the law and must not violate others' rights," Mr Chadchart said.
"Rally organisers must seek permission at least 24 hours in advance so City Hall can make arrangements for them," he said, adding that the use of loudhailers or loudspeakers must also be first permitted by the authorities.
The governor also said if he has time, he will find an opportunity to visit demonstrators to hear their grievances.
"Listening to [and accepting] differing opinions is part of democracy and is a healthy way to resolve conflict," he said.
City Hall exercised its authority under Section 9 of the Public Assembly Act and Section 49 of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Regulation Act to designate spaces for public gatherings with rules and conditions for use of those sites, the announcement said.
The seven sites are:
- Lan Khon Muang ground in front of City Hall
- The Thai-Japanese Youth Centre in Din Daeng district
- The public space beneath Ratchavibha Bridge near Soi Vibhavadi Rangsit 36 in Chatuchak district
- The parking lot in front of the Phra Khanong district office
- The 72nd Anniversary Stadium in Min Buri district
- The Chalerm Phrakiat Stadium in Thung Khru district
- Monthon Phirom Park in Taling Chan district.
Rally organisers must notify the appropriate district office within the set time and the district office will then ask officials responsible for overseeing rallies to facilitate the gathering and provide safety for the demonstrators.
Ratchadawan (surname withheld), an activist from the We Volunteer group or "We Vo" political group, said she was delighted by the announcement.
"Opening demonstration areas is good because it is giving the right to people to express their opinions under the constitution and democratic principles," she said.
Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, a Move Forward Party candidate who ran in the Bangkok governor election, said that the designated protest sites are not a move to restrict people's right to assembly.
But Mr Wiroj added that people should be allowed to hold demonstrations at other venues as well.