The head of the government's Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) yesterday warned the anti-government leader that his arrest was imminent "in the near future" and asked him to surrender.
Caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, the CMPO director, said that Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the protesting People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), would be arrested on charge of leading an insurrection, and not for leading the anti-government protests.
Chalerm warned that any attempt by Suthep’s bodyguards to resist the police could prove dangerous. He said Suthep’s guards were armed. “The gunmen should return home. If any loss happens, do not blame the police,” he said.
He added, however, that the police had no intention of harming the protesters or planning to kill Suthep. “He must be arrested because he is wanted under a court-approved arrest warrant.”
Chalerm, an outspoken veteran politician with a background in the police force, said he was unsure whether the arresting police officers would take recourse to an extrajudicial killing in case of armed resistance.
“I don’t know if there will be extrajudicial killings. I will not be among the arresting officers. But whatever will happen or if there may be loss, people should understand that the police will use their good judgement,” Chalerm said.
The CMPO yesterday resolved at its meeting to seek arrest warrants for 16 protest leaders of the PDRC starting tomorrow. In all, the number of protest leaders wanted by the authorities is now 58, according to Department of Special Investigation director-general Tarit Pengdith, who was present at yesterday’s meeting of the CMPO.
He said the names of the additional 16 PDRC leaders would be announced today. He added that under the state of emergency imposed recently, the authorities are empowered to detain those arrested for 30 days before further legal action.
According to a DSI source, Suthep and other key PDRC leaders will be among the 16 people to face arrest warrants. They also include Sathit Wongnongtaey, Chumpol Jumsai, Issara Somchai, Thaworn Senneam and Witthaya Kaewparadai.
Tarit yesterday also warned people not to take part in the protests, saying they could be regarded as violating the law or could end up clashing with police.
He said ordinary protesters would be also deemed to have violated the law under the state of emergency. He said that by attempting to interrupt an election, they could face a jail term of up to 10 years.
He said that from tomorrow, CMPO officials would start negotiating with the PDRC leaders for the return of areas in many state agency offices that have been occupied by the protesters.
The CMPO yesterday warned through a live TV broadcast that owners of any hotel, rented house or other places that provide lodgings for people wanted by the CMPO would face severe legal action.