Govt responsible 'in principle' for any shutdown violence: Prayuth

national January 08, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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The caretaker government would, in principle, be held responsible for any violence associated with the January 13 mass-gathering of protesters planned by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), Army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday

But along with this principle, Prayuth stressed the fact that any political group would also be held responsible for violence it started. 
“Remember this: Any group of people that takes to the streets – if there are skirmishes, injuries or deaths, or ensuing riots – they will be held responsible,” he added.
Prayuth made his comments as caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and National Police chief Pol Gen Adul Saengsingkaew announced that the military and police would join forces to handle the security situation during Monday’s planned Bangkok Shutdown by anti-government protesters.
Yingluck, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the military would not stage a coup against her government.
“As the [caretaker] defence minister, I believe that military commanders would consider options that can solve the problem in the long run, rather than using means that the international community does not accept.”
Asked if she still had confidence in the military commanders, Yingluck said she based her judgement on earlier comments by military commanders that the military knew its duty. “I believe all officers will perform their duty, and let’s respect His Majesty the King’s advice that we should know our duty and learn to live together peacefully,” she said.
“All of us have to come together and stop fighting and stop the violence. The government is glad to cooperate to restore peace,” she said.
Adul said security operations to cope with the Bangkok Shutdown campaign would be handled jointly by military and police personnel. Refusing to elaborate, Adul said police yesterday held a large meeting of chiefs of all 88 Bangkok police stations to discuss measures and preparations for the Occupy Bangkok campaign. 
During a media interview, Prayuth did not rule out a coup, saying that one should not be overly worried about what might happen in the future. “Every act results from a cause, from a condition. Go and find out what those causes and conditions are. If there is no such cause or condition, there will be no act [of a coup],” he said.
He said there might be movements of troops and military hardware in Bangkok in the next few days, but they would be assembled at a demonstration at an unspecified location, as a number of them were newly-acquired items.
Asked about potential violence during the Occupy Bangkok campaign led by the PDRC, he said the conditions were different from those that occurred during the 2010 red-shirt protest. This year, he said, the military would take care of all groups who assembled at rallies. “If instability continues and there are people wearing 10 different colours, I will take care of all of them, whatever colour they wear,” he said.
 Responding to a call for an Emergency Decree – a more draconian measure than the Internal Security Act (ISA) – to be activated to handle the PDRC campaign, the general said that in 2010 the ISA was initially utilised following violence and attacks preceding the red shirts’ central gathering at the Ratchaprasong Intersection. The Emergency Decree was activated later, when attacks became frequent, with some 96 incidents associated with firearms and grenades occurring.

Prayuth called on the police to find out who was behind attacks on two anti-government groups at their rally sites at and around the major rally venue, Democracy Monument.