Top brass in the armed forces consider how to assist police operations in Bangkok as protest activity becomes more militant and aggressive. The news comes with another day of record COVID-19 infections and plans by the opposition Pheu Thai Party to target 4 key ministers including Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha with a no-confidence motion.
Police in Bangkok have requested assistance from the military to control ongoing protests and disturbances in the capital. It comes after a fiery night of clashes between riot control police and a mob in which a small police station was burned out by increasingly aggressive protesters calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha. The mob attempted to march on his home in a military compound of the city.
The Metropolitan Police Bureau in Bangkok, on Thursday, raised the possibility of seeking the assistance of the Royal Thai Army after it struggled to deal with a particular virulent protest on Wednesday organised by a group called Tha Lu Fah which aggressively confronted police lines in central Bangkok near Victory Monument on Wednesday evening.
The protest repeatedly attempted to march on the home of the Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha located at the Vibhavadi Rangsit Road at the compound of the 1st Infantry Regiment.
Request made to armed forces by police was reviewed at a top-level meeting, army has a defined role
It is understood that a request was made by police to the armed forces to assist in operations to control the ongoing turbulent protests in Bangkok which have seen daily clashes between the riot control officers of the Metropolitan Police Bureau and a range of protest groups who have resorted to increasingly violent and confrontational tactics.
At a meeting of the armed forces chaired by General Chalermpol Srisawasdi, following the request from the police, it was decided that defence forces and the military were not to be deployed to control protests. Armed forces have a defined role within limits.
However, the top military officers were clear that they had a duty to ensure the protection of military installations and royal palaces.
Only to be used in a defensive role
On this basis, a written request for assistance, to be delivered through the Ministry of Defence, was suggested.
On Thursday, the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau, Police Lieutenant General Pakkapong Pongpetra explained that the deployment of the military would only be in a defensive role to support the police.
‘In the event violence escalates and appears to get out of control, the peace-keeping operation plan will be adjusted by allowing soldiers to fortify the police’s defence against violence,’ he said.
Ongoing student protest that began in July 2020
The protests are an extension of the student protests which began in July last year and whose demands include the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha and his government, constitutional reform and reform of the monarchy.
Escalating danger and violence on the streets as protests turn uglier with 3 demands still pursued by activists
In recent weeks, the protesters have attempted to broaden their support by targeting the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic which has sparked widespread public dissatisfaction.
At Wednesday’s clashes, one protester emphasised the battle was not one between protesters and the police but with the government.
‘Police are not our enemies. Our true enemy is the government,’ he said.
Police used rubber bullets and tear gas as they defended a blockade near the PM’s residence
Police on Wednesday were again forced to use tear gas and fire rubber bullets to deal with the situation as protesters again confronted a blockade of razor wire and containers erected to prevent them from marching on the military compound nearby within which the Prime Minister has his residence.
The home was provided by the army during General Pryaut’s time as a senior military officer and later commander-in-chief. He now continues to use it in his role as PM.
The protest on Wednesday later degenerated into a violent conflict between police and protesters after what started as a car mob rally.
It led to 48 arrests according to Police Lieutenant General Pakkapong Pongpetra of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.
The initial rally on Wednesday had been called off at 3.55 pm after police clashed with protesters.
However, this led to an element of the crowd moving to the Din Daeng area where a police blockade and vehicles were attacked.
A number of vehicles were set ablaze in what appeared to be a deliberate tactic
Three of those detained were women with 45 men. 15 were minors.
Ping pong bombs hurled at police lines
The violence last night in the city was disturbing with vehicles being set alight as well as a small police office in the area near Victory Monument, where the militant protesters had gathered, being gutted
It is reported the nine police officers were injured as the mob hurled objects at their lines as well as exploding firecrackers, flares and ping pong bombs.
Events began to spiral towards violence after 5 pm as they advanced in force at police lines in front of the containers and razor wire.
A protester lost five fingers, on one hand, when a ping pong bomb exploded while he held it before he threw the object, giving some indication of how dangerous these devices can be.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha sent his personal representative to the police hospital to show his gratitude to the officers who were injured while performing their duty.
Online fake news further inflames tensions on the ground as police warn about legality of uploading false or misleading material online
At a press conference later, Police Major General Piya Tawichai had to field questions relating to spurious online reports which, in several cases turned out to be fake news.
One was a misleading video clip that had gone viral showing police damaging cars taken from the 2013 street protests and a report of a dead student who, according to police, died when his motorcycle hit a refuse vehicle near Phra Pok Klao Bridge.
Police took the opportunity to warn the public that posting false or misleading information was a serious offence under Thailand’s Computer Crime Act 2017.
Another day of record COVID-19 infections as the opposition Pheu Thai Party plots a no-confidence motion against 4 senior cabinet ministers
The street protests come as Thailand, on Thursday, reported another daily record of COVID-19 infection with 22,782 new cases with 147 deaths and with the leading opposition party, Pheu Thai, preparing for a motion of no confidence against the government with 4 cabinet ministers in their sights.
On Wednesday, officials within the party held a Zoom video conference and decided to target the Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, Saksayam Chidchob, Minister of Transport and Jurin Laksanawisit, the Minister of Commerce.
In relation to the Prime Minister, the opposition says the government leader has failed to confront the COVID-19 crisis while a similar charge will be laid before Mr Anutin in particular over the country’s lacklustre vaccine programme.
Political change of fortune of the PM
Indeed, the political landscape in Thailand has altered completely since the third wave of the virus took off in early April driven by the Alpha variant of the disease followed by what many see as the fourth wave in mid-June when the Delta variant became dominant.
In late March, the position of the Prime Minister General Prayut seemed unassailable with the prospect of a third term assured.
Now the government of Prayut Chan ocha is seen as weak and rudderless with its hardcore advisers hoping if it can hold on until the end of the year, the virus may have subsided and the economy may have returned to some form of normalcy.
Transport Minister Saksayam to be targeted over the third wave of the virus which broke out in Thonglor
The opposition party also targeted Mr Saksayam over a lack of transparency in tendering for the Northern Isan rail link while it is also thought that he will face scrutiny over his links to the epicentre of the third virus wave that emerged in April from the Thonglor area of Bangkok.
The minister has categorically denied that he frequented nightlife venues linked with the outbreak.
These reports were, however, confirmed as being linked to a staff member at the Ministry of Transport.
Minster Saksayam instituted legal proceedings against two Facebook users who posted false information promoting such claims.
Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit targeted by the opposition in surprise move for failing to order controls on COVID-19 supplies
The inclusion of Minister of Commerce, Mr Jurin, in the opposition party’s sights is a bit topical but it is understood that he will be accused of failing to take action on vaccine supplies to ensure their availability and at controlled prices.
It is understood Pheu Thai had plans to also target Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and the Minister of Agriculture Chalermchai Sri-on.
They were dropped as Mr Prawit does not have a clear responsibility within the cabinet and there is a lack of documentary evidence to proceed against the agriculture minister.