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bangkok shutdown

Decree still an option: govt

Emergency security law may be imposed if violence breaks out, PM's aide says

A KEY STRATEGIST of the caretaker government hinted yesterday of the possibility of imposing an emergency decree to prevent violence during the "Bangkok Shutdown" campaign by anti-government protesters next Monday.

PM's secretary general Suranand Vejjajiva said it was possible the government could opt for an emergency decree if there was violence, if an "ill-intentioned" third party provoked violence.

He said police had worked hard over the past two months and the government would like support from the military to keep security in a defensive role.

"We do not want the military to play a role as they did in the 2010 political riot," he said.

The government respected the military's neutral political stance but it wanted the military to protect the law and democracy.

The military top brass last week opposed a move to invoke the security law. The top brass didn't want a repeat of the painful experience of the crackdown on red-shirt protesters in May 2010, which has seen the Army blamed for many deaths and injuries.

Caretaker Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap, speaking at another press conference, said intelligence agencies had learnt that certain protesters may resort to violence. They also feared that third-party groups may take advantage of the rallies to foment violence, he claimed.

"The government is concerned for the safety of the people. If the demonstration is peaceful and lawful, it can go ahead. But several earlier rallies saw a number of groups violate the law - including the rights of others - by stirring up violence. The government would therefore like to implore those intent on using violence to think again," Anudith said.

Leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) Suthep Thaugsuban yesterday led thousands of protesters on a march through the western part of Bangkok to warm up for their "Shutdown" starting on January 13.

Green group coordinator Suriyasai Katasila has expressed confidence that the shutdown rally would draw the largest ever anti-government protest because not only it would be the final showdown of the political struggle but a national graft agency is about to reveal graft cases at the same time.

"This could lead to a political change before the general election is held," he said.

He urged PM Yingluck Shinawatra against resorting to a tactic of using mobs against mobs. "Do not be a hypocrite by saying 'I don't want to see violence' but allowing aides to create situation and instigate violence," he said.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party claimed there were plans to mobilise thousands of hardcore supporters, who would use violence during the "Shutdown".

Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit alleged that the 6,000 extremists would be dispatched to stir up violence during the mass rallies in Bangkok

during the Shutdown. The PDRC has vowed to hold simultaneous rallies to paralyse Bangkok and pressure the caretaker government into aborting the February 2 poll.

Prompong alleged the violence would be worse than the December 26 clashes between police and protesters at the Bangkok Youth Centre, also known as the Thai-Japanese Stadium. On that day, a policeman and a protester were fatally shot and over 100 people injured.

However, Democrat deputy leader Ongart Klampaibul dismissed fears of 6,000 radicals being mobilised as a ploy to discredit the PDRC. He said it was part of the government's ongoing campaign to frame PDRC leaders and frighten protesters so that they don't join the rallies. Instead the number of protesters was growing. The caretaker PM should stop resorting to underhand tactics, Ongart said.

He also said the government should tell the red shirts not to organise rallies in provinces around Bangkok on Thursday as this may lead to clashes between the groups.


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