PHUKET CITY: There was more action than usual at Phuket City Police Station yesterday when some 300 local police took part in crowd control and anti-riot training under the watchful eye of Royal Thai Police Region 8 Commissioner Santarn Chayanon.
The special training is in the run-up to the Asean+3+6 summit, tentatively scheduled to take place at the Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort and Spa June 13 to 14.
The officers, from all eight police stations on the island, were equipped with batons and Plexiglas shields. They were split into two companies for the special training.
The first, led by Kathu Police Superintendent Grissak Songmoonnark, practiced using the shields to form phalanxes to protect themselves and march against a small group of mock rioters and agitators – actually motorcycle taxi drivers who volunteered to take part.
Some of the “rioters” tried to break the formation, while others abused them verbally or hurled objects such as palm fronds and light plastic water bottles.
The second group, led by Pol Col Thummanoon Fhaijou, focused on crowd control measures and group response to a variety of scenarios.
Their training included defensive measures starting with negotiation, then moved on to more agressive tactics including the deployment of fire engines and tear gas to disperse protesters.
All of the tactics used are legal under normal Thai law, said a press release issued at the event.
The training was directed by Phuket Provincial Police Commander Pigad Thantipong and supervised by Phuket Provincial Police Deputy Commander Chalit Tinthanee.
Lt Gen Santhan said that some 2,100 local policemen would provide security during the summit, with reinforcements of 400-700 from the Border Patrol Police and other units.
“The upcoming summit in Phuket is vital for both Thailand and Asean. The previous failure had an obvious impact on everyone involved. We don’t want a repeat of that, because the damage would multiply, and Thailand’s credibility would be badly affected,” he said.
The police may also get help from the Army, however. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday said he would seek Cabinet approval to enforce the Internal Security Act during the summit.
The law would only be enforced during a short period of time and only in areas where it is deemed warranted, the state-run Thai News Agency quoted him as saying.
Invoking the Act would authorize the military’s Internal Security Operations Center to issue orders to concerned agencies and control access along key travel routes for the summit.
The announcement has set off a great deal of debate in the Phuket tourism industry.
Phuket has in the past hosted many large regional summits without incident.
Invoking special security measures and involving the military could backfire and harm the island’s reputation, one businessman was quoted as saying in the local Thai language press today.
— Khunakorn Terdkiatkhachorn
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