Security beefed up at Victory Monument; Niwattumrong among Pheu Thai leaders released
The military and police yesterday threatened tough action against people taking to the streets to oppose the power seizure, particularly those who resorted to violence.
Roads around Bangkok’s Victory Monument, the main site of anti-coup demonstrations, were closed yesterday afternoon and there was a heavy presence of soldiers in the area – at bus stops and on the elevated walkway. Police later joined the soldiers.
Businesses and street vendors around the monument closed their shops early yesterday.
There were no signs of protesters at the monument. A Facebook page of the anti-coup protesters said they had to cancel their rally there as they could not get to the monument. A small group of protesters later gathered at the Siam Paragon shopping mall.
Anti-coup protesters plan a large rally this Sunday at Ratchaprasong Intersection.
Colonel Winthai Suwari, spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said the junta needed to enforce the law strictly after the protesters assaulted soldiers on duty and damaged state items.
He said that the security law would be applied and the maximum penalty would be applied.
The spokesman, citing military intelligence, also claimed the anti-coup movement was being funded by some underground businesses.
Yesterday’s warning came after days of anti-coup protests, mainly at Victory Monument. On Wednesday, a group of protesters allegedly attempted to provoke armed soldiers stationed in the area. The protesters reportedly scuffled with soldiers, cursed them and threw bottles of water at them. A military vehicle was surrounded by protesters who spray-painted it.
Sections of four main roads leading to Victory Monument were closed by traffic police yesterday afternoon in an attempt to prevent people from joining an anti-coup protest.
The Traffic Police Division announced that Din Daeng, Phya Thai, Rajvithi and Phaholyothin roads would be closed from 3.30pm until the rally ended or until officials could disperse the protest.
Din Daeng Road was closed from Din Daeng Intersection to Victory Monument. Phya Thai Road was closed from Phya Thai Intersection to the monument. Rajvithi Road was closed from Tuek Chai Intersection and Phaholyothin Road from Saphan Kwai Intersection to the monument. Motorists were advised to avoid the road sections and use alternative routes instead.
Police yesterday also vowed strict law enforcement against anti-coup protesters, particularly those with questionable motives.
Deputy Police commissioner-general Pol General Somyos Poomphanmuang said the daily protests that had taken place at Victory Monument after the coup were “not natural” but had been organised.
“Our assessment found that the demonstrators at Victory Monument did not come on their own but they have leaders and their rallies were organised,” Somyos said. “Investigations by military officers revealed that the protesters were brought to the rally. They did not come with sincere intentions but they had hidden agendas.”
The police officer claimed to know the identity of the leaders and the mastermind but he refused to identify them.
Somyos, who is assigned to head the operation to deal with protesters, warned those who are not involved to stay clear of the rally site because “the authorities will enforce the laws seriously”.
Meanwhile, the junta yesterday released Pheu Thai Party politicians and persons linked to the ousted government who had been summoned and detained after the power seizure last Thursday. They included former acting prime minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan, former foreign minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, and former PM’s Office secretary-general Suranand Vejjajiva, and party figures Phumtham Vechayachai, Prommin Lertsuridej, and Bhokin Bhalakula. Surapong Suebwonglee, a former member of the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet, was among those released.
Also released were yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul and Democrat Party politician Thankhun Jit-itsara.