Security tightened for Royal funeral after warnings about ‘ill-intentioned groups’
PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered tighter security measures before and during the Royal Cremation of the late HM King Rama IX after intelligence agencies reported that dissident groups might try to cause trouble during the ceremony, a source said yesterday.
Groups causing concern were operating from overseas as well as the three deep South provinces of Yala, Narathiwat and Pattani, including anti-monarchy groups and other parties seeking to cause disturbances.
The premier has assigned the military, police, the National Security Council and the National Intelligence Agency to gather information and prepare countermeasures, the source said.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday chaired a meeting of authorities involved in organising the Royal Cremation.
“I’m concerned with any possibility of chaos that might happen before or during the cremation,” he said. “I have ordered full reinforcements after receiving information that there are some ill-intentioned groups inside and outside the country that may be prepared to create a disturbance during the event.”
About 250,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony at Sanam Luang at the end of this month, Prawit said.
He added that the cremation would be “one of the greatest events in the world”, so authorities would exert their best efforts.
Security officials have detected signs on social media of plans to provoke public disturbances during the week of the funeral for the late King, and have issued warnings against suspected perpetrators.
Army Chief General Chalermchai Sitthisart said the people who sought to provoke public disturbances had already been accused of violating the lese majeste law, and subsequently fled the country.
He did not name the people but there are a number of academics and activists who have sought asylum in foreign countries after being charged with insulting the monarchy.
The army chief added that security officers would be on full alert and there was nothing to worry about as the public would help officials to monitor for possible disturbances.
The cremation of the late monarch, he added, was a most significant event for all Thais, and officers would continue to take care of security issues, especially in and around the funeral compound.
Prawit was in overall charge of security matters, Chalermchai said. Police officers would take care of security matters around the compound, while the military would support them with intelligence sharing, he said, adding that officials would focus suppression efforts primarily on targets who had already been identified.
Thida Thavornseth, a key leader of the opposition red-shirt group, meanwhile said the government should stop stirring up the issue of turbulence during the important month.
She added that if there were any trouble, it would not be caused by red-shirt supporters.
If government critics had wanted to cause trouble, they would have done it long ago and not waited until three years after the military coup, she said. However, she added that authorities’ discrimination against certain groups harmed national unity.