Military to maintain bunkers despite lifting of emergency

national March 20, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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THE MILITARY will maintain its force and 176 street bunkers across Bangkok, even though the government has lifted the emergency decree.

A military source said the reason the government scrapped the state of emergency was not only because the Civil Court had put restrictions on its clamping down on anti-government protesters, rendering the emergency decree meaningless. Another reason was that “Thaksin supporters” wanted to gauge the military’s power over maintaining its 176 bunkers on Bangkok’s streets.

After lifting the state of emergency, the government has been pressuring the military to remove the bunkers, citing adverse effects on business and foreign investors’ confidence.

Government strategists want to close in on the People’s Democratic Reform Committee protesters in April by choosing to be on the offensive and not defensive. As a result they have replaced Thida Thavonseth with Jatuporn Promphan as chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD). They are also recruiting a new PM should caretaker Prime Minister and Defence Minister Yingluck Shinawatra be suspended from duty if independent agencies file indictments against her.

The government sees the military bunkers as “obstacles” to reducing the number of PDRC protesters who have staged a sit-in anti-government protest already five months long.

“The government is doing everything it can to hold on to power. It lifted the state of emergency only to test the military’s strength, especially that of Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha. The government’s supporters are not very happy with the presence of bunkers in the capital,” the source said.

The military will not remove the bunkers just yet because the situation is still at a turning point and assailants continue to launch their attacks almost on a daily basis. The violence takes place even with a heavy military presence. “If we withdraw our force, how is the government going to deal with the violence? The military is concerned about the safety of independent agencies and courts, which have faced daily intimidation,” the source said.

Deputy Army spokesman Col Winthai Suvari said soldiers are still currently stationed at the checkpoints as it was the duty of the military and soldiers to ensure safety for the people.

Moreover, any change to those measures would be considered according to the situation.

So far, the military bunkers have been adapted to harmonise with the locations. Some had been moved for the same reason, he said.

Deputy police spokesman Col Wichayakorn Nichaboworn said police officers had been told to adapt their strategies and operational plans to suit the situation. They were also ordered to carefully follow up and expedite related cases of law violation.

Moreover, police officers had been told to closely keep an eye on the movement of groups of people in the provinces, to prevent situation instigation. At the same time, investigators were deployed to get information from the security guards for each group of protesters, she said.