Protesters not “tough enough” – Thai security official

Thai security agencies are downplaying this weekend’s anti-government student rally, predicting that it will only attract 20,000 people and not the 50,000 predicted by the protest organisers. They’ve also said they’re confident it won’t become violent. The last big rally, early in this phase of opposition demonstrations, was on August 16 and was held at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. It attracted up to 10,000 people.

“There will be no bloodshed. Security agencies believe that if the protesters plan to camp out, it will last no more than a night and not many people will take part.”

In a niggling response in the lead up to this Saturday’s rally, the security source suggested the current protesters were not “tough enough”.

“It is unlikely that the protesters will be tough enough to camp out for long periods.”

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The rally, proposed to be staged at the Thammasat University Tha Prachan campus, is led by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration.

These key organisers have put themselves in a separate corner than earlier student protest groups who were solely seeking political reform of the current parliament and Thai constitution the UFTD, with Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak as the main spokesperson, were the first to bring up the country’s monarchy in their list of demands, a polarising issue in Thailand.

So security officials believe that the earlier swell of student activism, led by the Free People Group and the Student Federation of Thailand, may not appear at the Thammasat rally on September 21.

Some student group sources have voiced their opinion that “Penguin” is “independent-minded and hard to control”.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue between officials at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus, police and the UFTD organisers for this Saturday’s rally. Last week the University denied permission for the students and other protest groups to hold the event on the grounds of the high-profile university. It’s been speculated that the rally could be moved to the nearby Sanam Luang park, the only other large space in the area suitable for such a large gathering.

The government’s security officials say they’re prepared to handle any influx of ‘up country’ protesters who are travelling to Bangkok to join the anti-government demonstration.

The Thai PM has already made it clear that he wanted police to avoid any violent clashes at all costs. He also asked police not to intervene if the protesters fulfilled their promise to march on Government House at the end of the Thammasat campus rally.

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