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WEEKEND'S MASS RALLIES

Fake police or military will be prosecuted : Suthep


Impersonators of police or military officers would face legal action, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday warned.

Suthep, as head of a team enforcing the Internal Security Act (ISA), which took effect yesterday, held a press conference at Army headquarters to display uniformed police officers to be dispatched to the red-shirt rallies that start today.

Male and female officers from the units responsible for crowd control, patrol and rapid response, as well as Special Weapons and Tactics (Swat) teams, lined up to show how they would dress and the weapons and other gear they would use during the protest period.

He said female officers would carry no weapons, while male officers would carry batons and shields. Only the Swat teams and rapid-response units will be armed, and they will be dispatched only in the event of an emergency, Suthep said.

"Anyone impersonating a police or military officer and wearing a different uniform from these shown here will be arrested and prosecuted," said Suthep, who is in charge of security affairs.

Also attending the press conference were Army chief General Anupong Paochinda, First Army Region commander Lt-General Kanit Sapitak and Metropolitan Police commissioner Lt-General Santhan Chayanont.

Five companies of Navy and Army officers will be dispatched to guard Siriraj Hospital, where His Majesty the King is staying, on top of the existing security details, Suthep said.

The deputy premier in the evening called on Somdej Phra Phutajahn, who heads a monastic committee acting on behalf of the Supreme Patriarch, at his temple, Wat Saket. Suthep said beforehand that he would tell the senior monk no blacklist of pro-red-shirt monks existed, as had been rumoured.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday said the public should carefully consider any news they received, so as not to be duped by rumour-mongers.

He rejected as groundless one rumour that the government had closed down the People's Channel, which is run by some red-shirt leaders.

Abhisit insisted the anti-government channel would not be shut as long as it did not break the law. Television stations can tell their audience to protest against the government, but it is illegal to encourage them to destroy government property, kill anyone or break the law in any other way.

"There's a lot of strange news circulating at this time. I ask all of you to screen what you hear carefully. This government will explain the actions it takes in an open and transparent manner. Whatever action we take will be subject to scrutiny. Don't panic about the news you get, as there are a lot of rumours running around," the prime minister said.

Since midnight early yesterday, the first day of the ISA's enforcement, security checkpoints have been activated at the main rally site on Rajdamnoen Avenue and elsewhere around the capital.

Military, police and civilian forces have been deployed at checkpoints, and security has been tightened at key locations like Democracy Monument and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

The Interior Ministry has stepped up security to prevent attempts by protesters to trespass and use its offices for accommodations during the mass rally.

The Peacekeeping Operations Command will deploy 30,000 soldiers, 10,000 Bangkok policemen and a contingent of 10,000 civilians to safeguard the peace.

Suthep outlined the steps for keeping the peace:

- The red shirts have been warned against blocking traffic and raiding and seizing government offices or the homes of leading figures.

- Peacekeeping forces will be unarmed. Each officer will be issued a baton and shield for self-protection.

- Only the Swat teams and rapid-response units will be armed, in order to quell any violence that may occur. They are on standby and can be deployed at a scene within 15 minutes.

- If it is deemed necessary to disperse any unruly crowds, anti-riot operations will conform to international standards involving the use of tear gas and water cannons.






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