The Nation



Army against crisis decree

A policeman demonstrates for members of the media yesterday how teargas canisters were hurled from the roof of a building in the Labour Ministry compound during a clash between police and protesters on December 26.

A policeman demonstrates for members of the media yesterday how teargas canisters were hurled from the roof of a building in the Labour Ministry compound during a clash between police and protesters on December 26.

Imposing emergency law during 'Bangkok shutdown' may make things worse: Brass; Reds warn of backlash

The top brass disagree with the imposition of an emergency decree despite the People's Democratic Reform Committee's threat to "shut down" the capital on January 13 to force Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down, military sources said yesterday.

The armed forces have made it clear that the soldiers assigned to deal with the protesters will carry only batons and shields, so the emergency law would not be of much help to the government, a security source said.

The government is considering an emergency decree in light of possible civil unrest after PDRC leaders said they would stage a mass rally to step up pressure on the Yingluck government to leave office to pave the way for "reform" of the country.

At the Supreme Command Headquarters, a meeting of the commanders of all three branches and the national police chief was called to evaluate the political situation. Paradorn Pattanatabut, secretary-general of the National Security Council, which proposed the emergency decree, also attended the meeting.

Military sources said the top brass feared a repeat of the confrontation with protesters during the 2010 political riots. Besides, the military does not play a major role in riot-control operations, they said.

The security law was also not yet deemed necessary at this stage and in fact might aggravate the situation. It would undermine the country's image and the economy, especially the stock market, which is sensitive to political instability.

The sources said imposing the Internal Security Act and deploying police to control the situation were adequate. Security and intelligence officials have been instructed to monitor the PDRC's mobilising of protesters from January 5-8 to evaluate the situation.

Paradorn said a meeting with the government's Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, which Yingluck also attended on Wednesday, discussed whether to levy the emergency decree to handle defiant protesters and brace for possible violence.

Security officials were informed that protesters from the provinces were being drafted to gather in the capital.

The officials will assess again on Sunday whether the situation is moving in the direction that the PDRC leaders have announced.

"If violence erupts or the situation develops into something that creates public terror, it fits the criteria that we can use to activate the emergency decree," he said.

Yingluck can enforce the emergency decree for three days and if she wants to extend the period, she needs the Cabinet's approval, he said.

The pro-government red-shirt camp said it would counter the PDRC with a "Bangkok open up" campaign.

Jatuporn Promphan, a core leader of the red shirts, told a press conference that the time had come for the people, red-shirt protesters among them, to stand up and fight against what he called the elite's network, which planned to recruit southerners to oust the elected government.

Seizing Bangkok would lead to civil war, he said.

"We are ready but it depends when we will make a move. If we lose democracy, we don't know what will happen. This month is the month of 'make or break'. Please wait for a signal from us. We will fight under peaceful principles," he said.

He also asked other provinces to stage warm-up rallies starting on Sunday, the same day that PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban has called for a dry run before the real operation on January 13. Further details will be disclosed later, Jatuporn said.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court are moving in the same direction against the government - a manoeuvring in accord with the PDRC's declared Bangkok shutdown that, he claimed, will open the way for a coup.

Red-shirt leader Thida Tavornseth said a Bangkok shutdown would be a setback for Thailand and democracy.

Seizing the capital would cause problems for the public. The PDRC and the Democrat Party were only serving aristocrats who were intent on obstructing democracy, she added.

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