Thai army denies stockpiling tear gas, rubber bullets for Saturday’s protest

An anti-coup protester is taken away from the site of a gathering by Thai soldiers in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. Thailand’s military on Saturday disbanded the country’s Senate and placed all law-making responsibility in hands of the coup leader. Photo: AFP/Christophe Archambault
An anti-coup protester is taken away from the site of a gathering by Thai soldiers in Bangkok on May 24, 2014. Thailand’s military on Saturday disbanded the country’s Senate and placed all law-making responsibility in hands of the coup leader. Photo: AFP/Christophe Archambault

The Royal Thai Army yesterday denied rumors that it has prepared for Saturday’s mass rally expected to draw thousands challenging its power to Thammasat University by stocking up on riot control gear.

Spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree dismissed a credible-looking document said to be a leaked purchase order for the First Army Area – which covers the capital – detailing acquisition of tear gas grenades, batons, rubber bullets, shields and riot helmets.

Specifically: 1,200 rubber bullets and 80 tear gas canisters among various acquisitions. The document is dated September 2020 and bears the signature of Lt. Gen. Thana Promchan of the First Army Area.

Those details notwithstanding, Winthai said it lacked a specific date of issue and signature of a higher-ranking commander.

The leaked document circulated online shows riot gear ordered by the First Army Area.
The leaked document circulated online shows riot gear ordered by the First Army Area.

The army denial did not assuage doubts that the authorities – who have held near-absolute power since the 2014 coup – are not to be trusted. 

“When they say something’s fake … from my experience it is true. If they admit that they ordered the gear, they would be fucked then. Like the heroin that can be just flour,” wrote Tomo Tang on Facebook, referring to deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompao’s claims the heroin he spent four years in prison for was actually just “flour.”

Saturday’s mass rally is set to take place on Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus in the old quarter. Since resuming in July, anti-government rallies have spread nationwide to demand the government step down, an end to the harassment of critics and a rewrite of the constitution. Some have also called for reining in the monarchy’s power, drawing sharp warnings from top military brass.

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