UPDATE: The protesters have moved the location of today’s protests to the the headquarters of SCB (Siam Commercial Bank). SCB is a Thai bank that was set up under the auspices of the Crown Property Bureau. Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn is the largest single shareholder, owning 23.35% of SCB shares.
ORIGINAL STORY: Stay away. That’s the orders from police as protesters are set to rally outside the Crown Property Bureau. Demonstrators will be required to stay at least 150 metres away from the building in Phitsanulok Road. It is the first protest to put the issues of HM the King’s wealth, and the role of the Thai Monarch in the Thai constitution, front and centre as the main focus.
A record 6,000 police have been mobilised to handle the expected large crowd. Additional police have been shipped in from the provinces to bolster security for today’s rally. They will be enforcing the “public assembly law” and require protesters to stay at least 150 metres away from the symbolic buildings. Army re-inforcements are also on hand, according to an Army spokesperson.
Last week the Thai PM said the government and police would use the “full force of the law” to arrest and charge protesters if they transgressed, including the country’s else majesty laws. The latter seems an almost certain outcome of today’s protests. The list of the protester’s demands – for the Thai PM to resign, the dissolution of the government, a new constitution and reform of the role of the Thai Monarch – are at odds with the Thai “establishment”, the conservative Prayut government and Army.
Police have already secured the area, blocking off entry to the Crown Property Bureau. 8 days ago there were ugly scene outside the Thai Parliament when police clashed with anti-government protesters who were trying to get to the front of the building to conduct their protest. A smaller gathering of pro-government/royalist protesters were also conducting a rally earlier in the day.
Mid afternoon, the police retreated after the anti-government protesters stormed their barricades, despite the police turning water cannons and tear gas on them, allowing the two factions to go at each other for a short time, hurling objects including bricks and rocks at each other. There were also live rounds fired at pro-democracy demonstrators – police say they’re still investigating the circumstances of the firing of guns during the melee.
Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon also warned royalists groups to avoid mounting a counter-demonstration against the planned anti-government rally yesterday.
“Authorities will ensure there is no confrontation between the two rival groups. Police have been instructed to keep an eye on so-called third-party activists who might try to instigate violence.”
The young, tech-savvy anti-government protesters have shown their capacity to change their plans and locations at extremely short notice with the use of encrypted messaging that has thwarted attempts by Thai police to second-guess the plans of the protest groups.
A deputy spokesman of the Royal Thai Police said yesterday that neither the Ratsadon (People’s Movement) or the Free Youth group had approached police seeking permission to hold today’s rally.
“While the right to hold rallies was guaranteed by the constitution, demonstrators must adhere to the public assembly law by asking for police approval at least 24 hours in advance. Their rallies must also be peaceful and not infringe on others’ rights.”
Nearby Saint Gabriel’s College, Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University and Suan Dusit University are closed today because the planned demonstration and roads around the CPB will be closed to traffic. Classes will resume tomorrow.
According to the Bangkok Post, a new group, Siam Land, announced yesterday that they will mount a counter rally at the CPB to “stop the Free Youth protesters from going there”.
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