PHUKET: The Thai government will likely enforce a state-of-emergency decree today to cope with the escalating security problem in Bangkok after tens of thousands of provincial protesters arrived in the capital yesterday.
A state of emergency, which would be on top of the current implementation of the Internal Security Act (ISA), would empower the military to fully take charge of the situation.
Under the ISA, soldiers can only help the police in maintaining law and order.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is expected to hold an emergency Cabinet meeting before the emergency decree is used, according to a senior government source.
Red shirts rallying for “democracy” yesterday threatened a mass march on Abhisit’s hold-out if he does not dissolve the House of Representatives by noon today.
Tens of thousands of protesters gathering from across the country at the main rally stage on Rajdamnoen Avenue were prepared to lay siege to the Army’s 11th Infantry Regiment on Phaholyothin, where the premier is temporarily billeted and manning a “war room”.
Many demonstrators from the Northeast, North and other parts of the country arrived in Bangkok yesterday and earlier this morning, with their numbers expected to swell past 100,000 today, said Tawil Pliensri, secretary-general of the National Security Council.
But the North and Northeast of Thailand were not the only regions of the country represented in the capital’s growing sea of red. Natthawut Saikua, the red-shirt spokesman, said today would see more arrivals from central, eastern and western provinces as well as from around Bangkok.
About 1,000 red-shirted protesters departed Phuket on Thursday to join the rally in Bangkok. However, Phuket is a bastion of Democrat support and there have been no anti-government activities here, nor are any expected by the Phuket provincial government.
Jatuporn Promphan, a key leader of the anti-government movement in Bangkok, said that at this stage the red shirts had no plan to march to Government House, Parliament House or the house of Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda.
“We’re still confident the count will reach 1 million,” he said.
Veera Musikapong, another leader, will address the rally today and deliver an ultimatum for Abhisit to dissolve the House and call a snap election.
The red shirts expect a successful conclusion before the week is out.
“Altogether, we do not plan to stay more than seven days. I guess we could have a victory within four days,” Jatuporn said.
Police plan to dispatch 3,700 reinforcements to keep law and order during the red shirts’ show of force in Bangkok.
Metropolitan Police spokesman Maj-General Piya Uthayo said police estimated some 40,000 red shirts had assembled in Bangkok yesterday, with more to join last night and today.
Authorities would be on guard for any sabotage during the night, he said.
Acting Government Spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said a huge turnout by the red shirts was still not beyond expectations.
— Nation & Gazette Reporters
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