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Shutting Down Bangkok

State agencies vow to prevent cuts to power, water supplies

Disruptions of power and water services in Bangkok during a mass anti-government rally expected to begin on January 13 will not be tolerated, caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said yesterday.

He said he had met with his ministry's permanent secretary and the governors of the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, the Provincial Electricity Authority, the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority and the Provincial Waterworks Authority, and all of them promised that they would not allow their services to be disrupted.

The People's Democratic Reform Committee, the main group clamouring for the overthrow of the current government, has threatened to disrupt the services as part of its plan to "shut down" Bangkok on January 13.

Meanwhile the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) said yesterday that it had yet to be invited by the Transport Ministry for a meeting on preparations for the PDRC action. Deputy Bangkok Governor Amorn Kitchawengkul said such a meeting was necessary if the ministry is serious about mitigating the adverse effects on traffic in the capital.

Amorn said the BMA was using the Bangkok branch of the Internal Security Command Centre (Isoc), which is chaired by the Bangkok city clerk, to deal with the daily developments.

He said many surveillance cameras had been incapacitated by protesters who cut their electrical lines, turned them in the wrong direction or covered them with bags, but all these were being fixed.

Meanwhile, government ministries were also preparing to deal with the "Bangkok shutdown" on January 13.

The Energy Ministry plans to have executives and staff of agencies overseeing the country's electricity grid move to work at other places, said permanent secretary Suthep Liumsirijarern. However, he declined to reveal where they would go.

Department of Energy Business director-general Somnuk Bomrungsalee said the department had told fuel retailers to keep a close watch on the situation on January 13 and ensure they have sufficient supplies. Fuel-delivery trucks were also warned to avoid the routes expected to be affected by the Bangkok shutdown.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) yesterday instructed mobile-phone companies to increase their network capacity from January 10 onwards in the locations where attempts by the PDRC to paralyse the capital were expected.

NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasit said that as travel was likely to be made inconvenient at such locations on January 13, people would have to rely heavily on the mobile phones. The commission wants the telecom firms to maintain this higher network capacity until the situation returns to normal.

Gold shops in Bangkok's Chinatown will consider whether to close during the Bangkok shutdown, as road closures are likely to affect their operations, Gold Traders Association president Jitti Tangsithpakdi said yesterday.

He said there were more than 100 gold shops in the Chinatown area. He expected many of them to close, for safety reasons, when there is a big gathering of protesters nearby.


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