Radical protest leader, Arnon Nampa, has vowed to lead a march on Government House when the rally takes place on Wednesday and has promised an extended struggle as the student-led protests demand the ouster of the government of General Prayut Chan ocha, a new constitution and reform of the monarchy. It comes as the ruling political party, Palang Pracharat, is openly questioning the extent of public support for the students.
Authorities in Bangkok are adapting a tougher security stance to Wednesday’s protests in the city which military intelligence suggests will see 10,000 people taking part. A potential flashpoint may be a planned Royal motorcade due to take place on Wednesday with police anxiously reaching out to protest leaders to ensure that nothing untoward occurs. The rally has generated increased tension due to the continued insistence of the protestors in upholding their demands for reform of the monarchy despite warnings, even from their own side of the political divide, that the stance is divisive and injurious to their cause.
On Monday, the Secretary-General of the National Security Council, General Nattaphon Narkphanit, indicated that military intelligence suggests that a crowd of approximately 10,000 people will attend tomorrow’s rally and protest called for at Democracy Monument in central Bangkok.
Days ago, leading protest leader and Thai human rights campaigner, Arnon Nampa, warned that the protests will be an extended one and even called for demonstrators to surround Government House in Bangkok, the seat of the Thai government.
Key leader and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa says he is not afraid of being jailed for the struggle
Mr Arnon said he was not afraid of the consequences of the political struggle including being jailed. The respected lawyer has been arrested now four times including the last occasion, in early September, when his bail was revoked at the behest of police.
At the time, the protest leader refused to apply for bail again but was released anyway within hours after police withdrew their request to have him incarcerated.
Mr Nampa has repeatedly made it clear that he is willing to continue his struggle from within prison and hopes that his stance will inspire others.
Politicians cooperating with protests with support coming to Bangkok from 40 or 50 provinces
General Nattaphon also confirmed to reporters that some politicians were cooperating and liaising with the rally’s organisers.
This is despite a perceived distancing from the student-led protests among Thailand’s ruling political parties as well as the main opposition Pheu Thai Party due to the insistence by student leaders in calling for reform of the monarchy.
The senior officer revealed that the government is expecting that support for the protesters will come from between 40 and 50 provinces in the kingdom but that the rally’s attendance will be similar to past events, seen prior to the one on September 19th last when between 40,000 and 50,000 people turned up.
General Nattaphon did not name the politicians who were working with the protest organisers but it is thought that they may be associated with the Move Forward political grouping in parliament.
The top officer said that the security council was monitoring the situation and was ready to adjust its stance should the circumstances require it.
Students from Thammasat to attend
On Monday also, some students at Thammasat University demanded to be given free time from classes to attend Wednesday’s demonstration to show their support for the protests which are expected to include a march on Government House.
The student union at the university called on authorities there to suspend classes for the event and indicated that support on campus for the political struggle is growing.
Bangkok Metropolitan Authority refuses toilets
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority may refuse to provide toilet facilities and other supports to Wednesday’s protest.
This has led the students, organising the event, vowing to provide their own facilities with a promise that 21 toilets will be available as well as special facilities for the handicapped and those with special needs.
Special Branch and Metropolitan police work to protect Government House from protest threats
In central Bangkok, police forces are already preparing for the event.
Police Colonel Watchawi Thamsema of the Royal Thai Police Special Branch Bureau confirmed that his officers were working closely with the Metropolitan Police Bureau to counter any threats by students to breach the perimeter of Government House.
In the meantime, it is understood that police in Bangkok will be closing off key routes near the seat of government including Chamaimaruchet Bridge which leads to the main administrative building.
Security checkpoints across the city from 8 am
The security operation to counter the protests is also reported to include 21 police checkpoints throughout the city. The checkpoints will go into effect at 8 am on Wednesday and are expected to be in place until midnight on Friday.
The government, meanwhile, has called on the protest leaders who reportedly have not yet applied for a permit to stage the event, to endeavour to keep their activities within the law.
It is also reported that a Royal Motorcade in the vicinity of the protest is scheduled to take place on Wednesday and police are appealing to the protest leadership to avoid causing any disruption to this.
The leader of Thailand’s main opposition party, Pheu Thai, Sompong Amornvivat, made it clear on Monday that his party was not involved in organising or orchestrating support for the student protest.
However, he also asserted that this did not preclude any individual member for taking part as is their right.