A prominent red shirt said yesterday while the newly introduced Public Assembly Act was understandable it might not prevent demonstrations from spilling out of control in the future.
“Assembly is a way for people in a democratic country to air their grievances. When they feel they don’t have any negotiating power, they will gather at strategic locations,” Sombat Boonngamanong, widely known as Bor Kor Laijud, said at a seminar yesterday.
“They want parties in the conflict to come and negotiate. But the government doesn’t seem to understand this point much.”
Sombat, a leader of the Red Sunday Group, has joined and led many rallies before.
He spoke at the seminar entitled “Public Assembly Act: Is it About Legitimate Rights or Restrictions?” at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus. The new law came into effect in August.
Sombat said he understood that the Act was introduced in response to a number of big demonstrations rocking Thailand during the past decade, some of which caused massive economic damage.
“I know this law is not about increasing state power,” said the anti-coup activist. Sombat said the new law might not be the solution for as long as the government did not understand the needs of demonstrators.
But Central Police Training Division chief Maj-General Sornkrit Kaewpleuk said the Act aimed to ensure the safety of demonstrators.
“Officials from various agencies including the police force will receive proper training before being dispatched to rally sites,” he said at the seminar.
He said officials would be patient and had the necessary skills to deal with demonstrators.
He said the Act did not require people to seek permission to organise a rally but it prescribed restrictions with regard to the place and time of protests and the use of loud speakers.
The organisers of rallies should send a fax or an email to the police stations in the areas where they planned to rally, he said.
“This way, police will help you check if the planned rally is legal and what forms of cooperation police would like to ask from you,” he said.
“Police will respond within 24 hours. If there is no response, you can go ahead with the planned rally.”