PM fears violence at protest

national November 23, 2012 00:00

By The Nation

9,940 Viewed

Court rejects legal challenge to protest; police claim plot to kidnap Yingluck

A partial Cabinet meeting yesterday enforced the Internal Security Act (ISA) in three Bangkok districts to deal with the anti-government rally scheduled for tomorrow, while the police chief expressed fears the protesters may try to kidnap the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Constitution Court yesterday rejected all three petitions filed against the Pitak Siam group aimed at blocking its rally tomorrow. The court found no grounds to believe that the rally was aimed at overthrowing the country’s democratic system of government, as had been claimed by the petitioners.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in a televised address last night, said her Cabinet had resolved to impose the ISA due to the Pitak Siam leaders’ threat to overthrow her elected government and the possibility of violence.
“There is evidence that violence may be used. It is the government’s duty to preserve law and order, and protect the lives and property of everyone. Most importantly, the government must protect the democratic system under the constitutional monarchy,” she said in a recorded speech. 
“Being a democracy is not only about exercising one’s freedom. The rule of law must also be observed and obeyed. In exercising one’s rights and freedoms, one must not impinge on the rights and freedoms of others,” she said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung convened the nine-member partial Cabinet meeting in the morning and announced the enforcement of the ISA from yesterday until November 30 in Phra Nakhon, Pom Prab Sattru Phai and Dusit districts.
The move would allow the government to call for military reinforcements if police fail to control the protesters during the demonstration led by retired General Boonlert Kaewprasit.
Foreign Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul said the ministry’s permanent secretary had clarified the government's imposition of the ISA to a conference of foreign ambassadors and diplomats.
National Police chief Adul Saengsingkaew said the ISA would not disturb the daily lives of most residents of the capital.
Police expect at least 50,000 people to join the activities at the Royal Plaza, where more than 100 police companies would be stationed to maintain peace and order, Adul said.
Special Branch police had learned that the protesters would try to incite a riot and take Yingluck hostage, he said.
“We’re worried about this information picked up by our intelligence agency, and we must prevent it from happening,” the police general said.
The ISA is designed to help law enforcers contain a potentially explosive situation as it allows authorities to restrict access to certain areas, as well as the use of transportation, he said.
Police believe some people will try to stir up violence because they had prepared some materials for this purpose and certain groups had already made some moves, he added.
National Police spokesman Pol Maj-General Piya Uthayo said 112 police companies have been prepared and police from the provinces had travelled to Bangkok to be on standby for deployment to the rally site.
Police would ensure that the protesters remain at the Royal Plaza and do not spread out to other areas to bother the public in general, he said.
Police from other divisions would work with Metropolitan Police Division 1 to man strategic spots to contain the protesters, Piya said.
Police recommended the use of the ISA because police intelligence officers had discovered that the protesters would try to move around to create trouble, he said, adding that the organisers would also try to mobilise more protesters and had made preparations to try to stir up violence.
Police would not be able to control the situation using normal laws, so the ISA was needed to prohibit entry to certain areas, Piya said. “For example, Government House and Parliament House will be off-limits to the protesters. Anyone going in there will be arrested.”
Police had arranged for a place to detain protesters violating orders issued under the ISA, he said.
If police become outnumbered, they will call for backup from other agencies.
Police checkpoints were instructed to work with transparency and coordinate with all other units through communications networks.
Defensive operations have been planned to protect the two Bangkok airports, TV and radio stations, public utilities and transport systems.
Adul had sent letters to the three armed forces branches to assign military officers to function as liaisons at the police’s operations centre handling the rally.
A police team led by Pol General Chatchawal Suksomjit, an adviser to the National Police, would monitor the speeches of protest leaders, Piya added.
Pol Lt-Colonel Anchalee Thirawongpaisal, deputy police spokeswoman, said Police General Hospital would dispatch mobile medical units to take care of demonstrators and police around the clock. In case of an emergency, the hospital would seek help from other state and private hospitals.
Boonlert, the rally leader, said the move to wield ISA powers would provoke a bigger turnout at the rally.
Officials working at Government House were told to be ready in case the demonstration continues until Monday and the entrances are sealed off. They would be informed by SMS if their offices were relocated elsewhere.
The Cabinet Secretariat also said next week’s Cabinet meeting had been cancelled.