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Police teams tracking top rally leaders

Protesters place car tyres to block a section of Chaeng Wattana Road to prevent motorists from passing through the rally site.

Protesters place car tyres to block a section of Chaeng Wattana Road to prevent motorists from passing through the rally site.

Police have assigned a four-man team to follow key leaders of the anti-government protest around the clock to provide updates on their whereabouts - so the team can be assembled in short notice to arrest them when a chance appears, a high-ranking police source has revealed.

The teams travel in two vehicles and two motorcycles and will contact arresting teams to detain the leaders when the right time comes.

The steps include an initial approach, giving them notice of the warrant and looming arrest. The leaders will be extracted from where they are apprehended, the source added.

Chief protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has been followed exclusively by a special team led by a high-ranking officer, as Suthep has been guarded by a 40-strong protection team.

The anti-protest operation at the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) has obtained arrest warrants for 19 leaders of the People's Democratic Reform Committee, including Sonthiyarn Chuenruethainaitham. He was apprehended on Monday and is now in police custody in a facility outside Bangkok.

The Criminal Court is considering whether to approve warrants for another 13 leaders, while police are going through court steps to seek warrants for 26 others.

The arrest of Sonthiyarn has signalled the possibility of a police plan to reclaim areas occupied by the protesters, with the rally at the Government Complex on Chaeng Wattana Road north of Bangkok the most likely target, as it has been protected by the fewest protesters among all venues.

Police have been seen practising the use of net guns, at the Royal Thai Police Sports Club where the CMPO is located, amid reports of purchasing more than 500 sets of net guns and a large number of rubber bullets used in crowd-control operations.

In an original plan to snatch and arrest leaders from crowds of protesters, the CMPO had five special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams at five bases to enact that plan, under direct order of national police chief Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew.

But this plan was put on hold for fear of resistance and sparking violence from both sides.

Assistant police chief Pol Lt-General Winai Thongsong runs the tracking of leaders and has been given top detectives from various police divisions and units he has been close with to carry out the tracking.

Winai said the techniques to be used would be similar to those applied successfully in arresting Sonthiyarn.

"The tracking team had been following him for several days, to make sure he was not armed, and protected by bodyguards.

"We waited until he finished his meal, before we approached him, talked and produced the warrant and apprehended him, all in a non-violent manner," he said.






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