Update: Pro-democracy leaders announced Friday afternoon that their rally would be moved down the road to Thammasat University.
BANGKOK — An organizer of tomorrow’s pro-democracy rally said Friday he fears clashes could break out after a counterprotest was announced for the same site.
The Democracy Monument protest to demand timely elections will be met by another gathering by a heretofore unknown group calling itself “Unity Before Election.” One of the leading pro-election activists has withdrawn from the rally, citing fears of violence, but campaigner Sirawith Seritiwat said the event would go ahead.
“We may adjust our activities and change our plans. We are discussing the matter,” Sirawith said in an interview. “We are looking for ways to avoid clashes.”
Sirawith spoke hours after Nuttaa “Bow” Mahattana – the face of previous peaceful rallies calling for elections – said she would not attend Saturday’s protest.
“I have evaluated myself, as one of the leaders, and I believe I may not have the capability to ensure everyone’s safety,” Nuttaa wrote online.
The counterprotest was called by Facebook page “Unity Before Election,” which has only about 100 followers. It includes no means of contacting the page’s administrators.
“No peace, no election. Join us in a show of force to end unrest,” the post said, adding that the rally would take place at 3pm at Democracy Monument – roughly the same time Sirawith’s protesters are set to gather.
It is unclear who’s behind the group. Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said he’s not aware of the group’s existence, while Chanasongkram Police Station chief Chakkrit Chosoongnoen described them as “members of the public.”
“They are not opposed to elections,” Col. Chakkrit, whose jurisdiction covers the monument, said by phone. “They simply want to see peace and order.”
Chakkrit said police would deploy more officers to keep the two protests in order.
But Sirawith believes the counterprotesters are agent provocateurs organized by the military to incite violence.
“From what I’ve heard, they are set up by the Internal Security Operation Command,” the activist said. “They are trying to draft people from the ranks to harass us.”
The past 14 years in Thailand have been marked by skirmishes between protesters of different ideologies, which have at times turned fatal. Citing the need to establish peace, the military seized power in May 2014 after months of street protests in the capital against the elected government.