BANGKOK — A document shared online alleged that the Royal Thai Army was mobilizing riot control equipment for the major anti-government protest set for Saturday, though an army spokesman denied the accusation.
A letter posted on social media Monday night claimed units under the 1st Army Region, which covers Bangkok and the central provinces, were instructed to prepare to defend “very important areas” in Bangkok, just as thousands of protesters are expected to descend on Thammasat University for an overnight rally.
Army spokesman Winthai Suvaree declined to confirm the authenticity of the memo, but said there is no specific mission given to force for the forthcoming rally at Thammasat University.
“It’s unlikely to be an official letter from the 1st Army Region,” Col. Winthai said. “There’s no date specified and no signature of the commander giving the order. The army has not been given any missions related to the protest at the moment.”
Riot dispersal gears such as shotguns, rubber bullets, tear gas guns, and water trucks were ordered to be on standby for deployment, according to the alleged document.
On Sept. 8, Move Forward Party MP Nattacha Boonchaiinsawat also shared a classified army memo allegedly instructing police, army, and palace security units to take part in a riot control exercise in anticipation of the protest. The letter was not confirmed by the army.
Protest organizers said they will camp overnight, either at Thammasat University or Sanam Luang, then march to the Government House on Sunday morning to submit a petition demanding the government to step down.
Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan said he is not concerned about the protest, but security officials have been ordered to prepare to protect the government’s seat of power.
“Everything will be done according to law,” Prawit said. “Officials will set up barricades and maintain the perimeter around the Government House.”
National police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda had said that police will solely be responsible for security operations and ruled out the use of force to accommodate the protesters.
“It’s not our policy to use force,” Gen. Chakthip said Thursday. “The PM has insisted officials to be patient. We have no special plans in place and we will maintain peace and order as usual.”