More than 20,000 policemen to be deployed to defend 10 sites from protesters today
More than 21,000 police will guard key state offices including Government House today, when anti-government protesters plan to take control of 10 targeted locations, as part of their “fight to uproot the Thaksin regime”.
The government’s Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) and the Metropolitan Police will deploy 21,550 policemen in and around government offices in Bangkok, including Government House and Parliament, a police source said.
At the request of the CAPO, soldiers from Thailand’s three-armed forces will be sent today to help police deal with protesters attempting to occupy government offices in the capital, a high-ranking source in the military said. The unarmed troops will be responsible for preventing damage to state property and government offices, the source said, adding that they would not confront protesters.
“Soldiers will assist the police, but police will still be at the forefront of operations. Troops will not man checkpoints or patrol the streets,” the source added. The prime minister yesterday also confirmed that unarmed soldiers would help with maintaining peace and order in certain areas.
The CAPO yesterday ordered closure of 14 road sections around Government House and Parliament and declared areas around the Royal Thai Police headquarters, Police Hospital and Chulalongkorn Hospital off-limits for protesters.
Metropolitan Police chief Maj-General Camronvit Toopkrajank chaired a meeting yesterday about security measures for the compounds, in preparation for the planned occupations. Participants including many senior police were informed about crowd-control measures and suppression of a protest – in line with international standards.
The Metropolitan Police chief prohibited all staff against taking leave at this time until further notice, the source said. About 50 fire extinguishers were distributed to different divisions of the Metropolitan Police in case of fire, according to the source.
Some 8,400 policemen would be deployed to guard Government House, Parliament and the Metropolitan Police Bureau, another police source said. Protest leader Suthep Thauguban, who is also secretary-general of the newly-formed People’s Democratic Reform Committee, did not name Parliament among the 10 state offices the protesters will try to seize control of today.
Deputy Metropolitan Police commissioner Maj-General Samroeng Suwanpong said yesterday police would “seriously enforce” the Internal Security Act (ISA) against any protester attempting to enter Government House, Parliament and other key government offices. The authorities would focus on negotiations with protesters but would not allow them to trespass into a government office, CAPO spokesman Police Maj-General Piya Uthayo said yesterday.
“It is now clear that the protests are not peaceful. It is illegal to trespass into government offices. Also, weapons have been found at protest sites,” Piya said. “Police will not allow protesters to trespass into important government offices, including Government House, Parliament and Royal Thai Police headquarters, as running of the country will be affected,” he said.
“All the measures taken will be in line with the international standards. The focus will be on negotiation.”
He said that the CAPO was pleased to have representatives from human rights organisations, academia and the media to observe the police’s handling of the protesters.
Many government offices in Bangkok, which is now under the ISA, have been guarded by thousands of police and surrounded by concrete barriers and barbed-wire fences.
Crowd-control equipment such as batons, shields, teargas canisters, and vehicles equipped with long range acoustic devices and high-pressure water jets have also been spotted inside compounds. The police’s preparation came as Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday ruled out the use of violence to tackle the protests.
“Today, we choose to be condemned as a weak government, not using force and being invaded by protesters,” the prime minister said in a television broadcast. “It is better than setting a deadline to regain our ground and leading to people’s suffering,” she said.
The numbers of anti- and pro-government demonstrators have “increased continuously” yesterday, according to CAPO deputy spokesman Maj-General Anuch Romayanand. He said police were deployed at Ramkhamhaeng University, which is adjacent to Rajamangala Stadium, where the red shirts were gathering in support of the government, in an attempt to prevent violence.
He claimed there had been attempts to create violence between both sides. Peace advocates urged both sides yesterday to avoid violence. Gothom Arya, director of Mahidol University’s Research Centre for Peace Building, said that conflict should not lead to violence, as it could cause death.