BANGKOK — Riot police are prepared to use force against the protesters should they fail to steer clear of the royal properties on Saturday, according to an internal document obtained by Khaosod English.
The 110-page document was reportedly prepared by the Metropolitan Police Bureau and used in a recent briefing with multiple police agencies. The plan calls for deployment of riot police to defend strategic choke points around the Grand Palace, the Royal Plaza, and Chitralada Royal Villa in Bangkok during the two-day protest planned for this weekend.
The Government House, the target of the demonstration on Sunday morning, is also declared out of bounds by police.
Metro police spokesman Jirapat Phumjit declined to confirm the authenticity of the document, saying that he has not seen it yet.
“I haven’t seen it, but it’s unlikely to come from our force,” Maj. Gen. Jirapat said.
The rally is being organised by the student group calling itself the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. They call on the protesters to gather at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus from 2pm onwards on Sept. 19.
Protest organizers said they will camp out overnight before marching to the Government House on the following day and submit a petition to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration, but many observers suspected that it may not be their intended destination.
The presentation appeared to prepare for such a ruse. It included a backup plan in the event of a march to occupy the Royal Plaza, which is now part of the Dusit Royal Residence.
Police are instructed to negotiate with protest leaders to hold off the advance toward the royal compound, before considering the use of force as the last resort.
Miscellaneous details such as chain of command, means of communication, and how the screening points should be set up are also outlined in the document.
Riot dispersal gears such as shotguns, rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, acoustic control devices, and water trucks are ordered to be on standby for deployment, according to the alleged document. Drone jamming equipment and “anti-sniper” squads will be deployed as well.
Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan also echoed the fears that the protesters may target the royal residence. Gen. Prawit told reporters he is not concerned about the protest, but asked the protesters to stay away from the Royal Plaza.
“Don’t go to the Royal Plaza,” Gen. Prawit said. “[Police] will have to defend it, if there’s another choice, then go there instead.”
Even a former leader of the Redshirt movement, Jatuporn Prompan, warned the protesters against crossing the point of no return by stepping into the royal grounds.
“It’s very sensitive,” Jatuporn said Thursday. “If they can’t control the crowd, the result will be completely different. If the allegation isn’t true, then they should immediately deny it and announce to the public of their directions.”
Lt. Gen. Damrongsak Kittiprapat, assistant national police commissioner, had announced that 57 companies of riot police, or 8,550 men, were mobilized from around the country to handle this weekend’s protest.
Security officials estimated that more than 50,000 people will take part in the protest.