Hundreds of special police to await protesters at Government House

Pro-democracy activists mark the 2014 coup’s fourth anniversary with a march to the Government House on May 22, 2018, from Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. Photo:  Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
Pro-democracy activists mark the 2014 coup’s fourth anniversary with a march to the Government House on May 22, 2018, from Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. Photo: Chayanit Itthipongmaetee

Three-hundred officers from an elite police protection unit will guard the prime minister’s seat of power when protesters march on it Sunday.

Special Branch police told reporters yesterday evening they will field 300 officers from two divisions to watch over the Government House after organizers of Saturday’s mass rally against Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s government said they would camp overnight and attempt to reach the building the next day.

Officials said any attempts to intrude on the grounds would be met with negotiations before officers escalated their response. They said there would only be sworn civilian officers and no soldiers present to protect the offices of the former army commander and 2014 coup-maker.

Protesters vow to defy Thammasat U’s ban on Sept. 19 rally

A similar attempt to march on the Government House by a much more sparsely attended rally two years ago on the fourth anniversary of the 2014 coup was effectively blocked by security forces, who took its leaders into custody.

This weekend’s event is organized by students calling themselves the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. The student-led group represents the faction whose goals go beyond bringing down the government to include 10 reforms to rein in the monarchy’s power. 

A tension over those demands has existed within the broader movement since protests resumed in July. Saturday marks the anniversary of the 2006 coup that drove Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from power. Sunday is the anniversary of King Rama V’s birth.

Gen. Prayuth yesterday said his government would avoid violence and protect both protesters and the public while leaving the door open to conspiracy theories.

“If the protest is without any third-party manipulation and is pure, I don’t have a problem with anybody,” he said. “But whether the protest is pure, we have to investigate further. I’ve got some information.”

Police today issued summonses to 15 student protesters charged with sedition and violating the emergency pandemic decree to appear at the Samranrat Police Station. Their cases will be forwarded to the attorney-general’s office over the charges stemming from a July rally at the Democracy Monument.

Related

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Protesters vow to defy Thammasat U’s ban on Sept. 19 rally

Anti-government rallies spreading across Thailand

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