BANGKOK — Signal jamming devices were deployed at a recent anti-government rally in Bangkok, according to a leaked memo confirmed by police on Monday.
The internal police memo instructs three electronic countermeasures vehicles to be dispatched to the Democracy Monument on Sunday, close to where the protesters held a protest in front of the Bangkok City Hall.
Deputy metro police commander Somprasong Yenthuam, who signed the order, confirmed the letter was genuine, but said the equipment was not there to disrupt mobile phone signals as alleged by some protesters.
“We’ve no intention of infringing the protesters’ rights,” Maj. Gen. Somprasong said. “They were to be used in an event of discovering a suspicious article, so we could move in quickly. It’s just the same order we made for every protest.”
According to the letter, three companies of riot police were also ordered to mobilize to the rally site yesterday, though the rally went generally peaceful amid downpours without any incident.
Somprasong said in an interview that the devices deployed Sunday were solely for cutting off a signal that could remotely detonate a bomb. He said the jammers were not activated throughout the protest.
The revelation came a week after similar jamming equipment were seen at the large protest on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, which drew about 15,000 people. Although many complained of poor signal at the rally and suspected the authorities were involved, there was no evidence the police were responsible for the disruption.
National Broadcasting and Television Commissioner Prawit Leesatapornwongsa said the agency is investigating the signal outage and has ordered mobile phone providers to check whether there was service disruption during the protests.
“We’re not sure what caused the problem,” Prawit said. “We can’t answer inquiries about the jammers since we’re not responsible for it.”
Somprasong added that police will take actions against the leaders who broke their bail conditions and joined the protests.
The Sunday’s rally was organized by students from Kasetsart, Bangkok, Silpakorn, and Rangsit Universities under the theme “Because Everyone is a Leader.”
The speakers repeated the three core demands made at the July 18 rally, which are the dissolution of the House, drafting a new constitution, and an end to political harassment against the dissidents.