PHUKET CITY: Phuket will for the first time fall under the Internal Security Act (ISA) when it hosts the 42nd Asean Ministerial Meeting and related activities to be held at Laguna Phuket from July 17 to 23.
Cabinet yesterday approved the strict measure for 15 days, from July 10 to 24, for an area covering the entire island and extending five kilometers offshore.
The reason is to give the government heightened powers to deal with any unrest.
By invoking the Act, the government does not need to declare a state of emergency to enforce tougher rules and regulations. An Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) panel chaired by the prime minister will also be set up.
Although it will infringe on people’s basic rights for the duration, the move is aimed at boosting international confidence in Thailand.
In addition to foreign ministers from Asean’s 10 member countries, counterparts from dialogue partners including the US, China and Japan are expected to attend.
Army chief Gen Anupong Paochinda said all branches of the armed forces jointly proposed to the Cabinet the use of the Internal Security Act for the duration of the event and the week preceding it.
The law, initiated by the military-backed government last year, lets the premier mobilize forces from any agency for security reasons. Article 18 of the law authorizes the premier, in his capacity as ISOC director, to impose curfews, prohibit the movement of people and vehicles and block commuting routes.
The Act also authorizes the premier to enact special security measures without having to declare a state of emergency.
The government fears that red-shirted anti-government protesters might disrupt proceedings as they did with the South East Asian Summit in Pattaya over the Songkran holidays in April.
ISOC argued the Act would be indispensable following the Pattaya chaos, which harmed the country’s reputation and economy.
The authority also said, in the proposa,l that its intelligence report showed some ill-intentioned groups, from both inside and outside the country, might again try to foment trouble.
The Council of State, which advises the government on legal issues, will flesh out details of the security plan in accordance with the law and propose it to the Cabinet again next Tuesday, an official said.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva defended the decision to invoke the Internal Security Act, saying it would restore confidence in Thailand amongst the international community.
“If we can manage to have a smooth meeting, it would help clear up the bad impression of the April incident among foreigners,” he told reporters.
Suthep Thaugsuban, the Deputy Premier in charge of security affairs, said the security blanket over Phuket during the Asean Summit would not cause hardship for tourists and residents.
However, Prompong Noparit, spokesman for the opposition Pheu Thai Party, said the move was an overreaction to the situation and would impinge on fundamental rights of citizens.
It is not easy for the protesters to gather people to rally in Phuket since the island has only one land access route, he said.
— The Nation
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