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Protesters unfazed by Chalerm's vow to reclaim sites

THE PEOPLE'S Democratic Reform Committee says it has no plans to disperse from any of its protest sites around Bangkok.

If the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) tried to clear and reclaim a rally site, protesters from other sites would be mobilised to defend it, PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday.

He was speaking after chairing a meeting with core leaders of the protest groups. Calling for people to join the protest, he insisted they had to come without weapons. "If any of you cannot do that, please stay home," he said.

CMPO representatives yesterday held talks with some PDRC leaders at the Chaeng Wattana rally site, following the centre's plan to reclaim rally sites under the emergency decree.

At a separate event yesterday, the CMPO director, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, said he would have the rally sites reclaimed from the protesters within 72 hours.

Chalerm said the protesters would be arrested if they refused to stop blocking government offices.

"I'll deploy assault units, which will be set up today, to arrest all of them for violating the emergency decree and for illegal intrusion into government offices," Chalerm said.

He said the CMPO would not yet seek help from the armed forces to launch the crackdowns.

He said people who were besieging government offices should leave and return to the rally sites.

"Action will be taken against only those who are blocking the work of government officials, not against other demonstrators," Chalerm said.

He said the action would be taken by the CMPO and would have nothing to do with the prime minister, adding "I'll take responsibility myself."

In response, Suthep said the CMPO had been set up illegitimately and must be dissolved by today(Tuesday). Otherwise, the PDRC protesters would go and close the CMPO office themselves, he said.

Meanwhile, the CMPO, government representatives, police and military officials have held talks with PDRC core member Luang Pu Buddha Issara at Chaeng Wattana Road about reclaiming Government Complex offices there.

The officials included Metropolitan Police Bureau deputy chief Pol Maj-General Adul Narongsak; Thongchai Chasawath, the director-general of the Department of Consular Affairs; Justice Ministry deputy permanent secretary Thawatchai Thaikeaw; and officials from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

Luang Pu Buddha Issara offered three proposals in reply to requests the Government Complex should be allowed to return to work.

He said reopening of the offices should not affect the protest site, protesters should retain the right to rally peacefully, and strangers should be kept out of the rally site.

Adul said he would consider the requests and will talk with Luang Pu Buddha Issara again.

Earlier, Luang Pu Buddha Issara told CMPO spokesperson Sunisa Lertpakawat to leave the meeting because she represented the government.

Protesters at Pathumwan said they had not heard the CMPO was trying to disperse them and reclaim the site.

Thanyaporn Watcharapruek said she didn't fear the government trying to reclaim the rally site and believed there would be no violence.

Niran Sriarmorn said if the CMPO did try to disperse and reclaim the site with force, he believed the number of protesters would increase there.

Sumetta Tingnga, a merchant at the site, said she hadn't heard that the CMPO might try to reclaim the area, but she doubted it would become a violent situation.




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