More than 2,000 police forces have been reportedly drafted to cope with a planned anti-government rally to be held this Saturday, September 19, while 300 other officers from the Special Branch Bureau have reportedly been ordered to watch over the Government House when protesters plan to march on it Sunday, September 20.
Police Major General Somprasong Yenthuam, Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, said yesterday, September 15, that Bangkok police had fully prepared to provide public safety and traffic control following the announcement of the student-led protest at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus in Bangkok.
The police also warned protest organizers to set up a health screening point for rallygoers to prevent the possible spread of the Covid-19 and to keep the gathering lawful and peaceful in line with the law.
The number of potential protest attendees is hugely debatable between the organizer and the authority, while student activist Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul said it could attract as high as 100,000 people, the police from the Special Branch Bureau presumed it could only be about 50,000. Some estimates from authorities believe it may be no higher than 20,000. However, the Deputy Commissioner told reporters that relevant authorities have deployed a sufficient number of officials and have developed a contingency plan to cope with any changes to the original plans for the rally.
Members from several political parties, including leaders from the Progressive Movement, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, and former so-called ‘red shirt’ protestors nationwide who shared the same vision for the pro-democracy movement are reportedly traveling to join the Bangkok demonstration this weekend.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, Former Secretary-General of the Future Forward Party, told the Associated Press that every protestor holds their right to be able to express themselves politically. He and Thanathorn also decided to join the protest only to exercise their basic human rights under the constitution. He stressed the planned protest was to be peaceful and in accordance with law.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O’Cha said on Monday, September 14, that the government would not take any political actions to stop the gathering or the march to Government House as long as the protesters were not breaking the law. He urged both sides to avoid violence and protect both protesters and the public.
The incoming major rally is considered to be by many the biggest planned anti-government demonstration yet in Bangkok after Prime Minister Prayut took power originally in a 2014 coup. The rally, led by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, is said to be an overnight rally and the first to involve more serious political movements such as a March in order to place pressure on the military-based administration.
There are three primary demands from the protesters: To rewrite the Constitution, stop official and unofficial harassment of protestors and dissolve Parliament, essentially removing the entire current government. A splinter, smaller group is also asking for more controversial and radical changes which has led to fierce opposition from conservative parties.