BANGKOK — Three police commanders, including an officer who oversaw the crowd control division, were transferred to an inactive post pending investigation on Thursday after a royal motorcade encountered a group of protesters yesterday.
The three were identified as deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police Somprasong Yenthuam, Bangkok police’s 1st division commander Prasai Jittasonthi, and Security and Crowd Control Commander Manop Sukonthanapat.
The official announcement did not mention reasons for their removal, but sources and security officials said the trio was accused of failing to clear protesters from Phitsanulok Road before a royal convoy passed through on Wednesday afternoon.
Police spokesman Yingyot Thepchamnong said three senior officers are under investigation into why they did not clear the route. One of three, Manop, could be seen running alongside the royal motorcade.
“It didn’t go according to plans,” Maj. Gen. Yingyot said. “They might have forgotten or misunderstood the details of the plans.”
When asked why the royal motorcade was not diverted to a different route, Maj. Gen. Yingyot declined to answer the question.
“I already addressed the matter,” he said before hanging up.
Yesterday’s motorcade of a dozen vehicles were carrying Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti to a religious ceremony at Wat Arun when it ran into a group of protesters on Phitsanulok Road.
Scores of police officers linked arms and formed a human chain as the royal convoy slowly proceeded past the demonstrators that managed to reach Government House ahead of the main body of the march.
Khaosod English reporters at the scene confirmed that they saw no protesters standing in the way of the convoy or throwing any projectiles to the vehicles, which were protected by layers of police officers, though they could be heard shouting obscenities at the motorcade.
But the incident proved enough for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to declare a “Severe State of Emergency” in the Bangkok metropolis area, citing obstruction to the royal motorcade. The order allows authorities to ban public gatherings, search individuals without warrants, and censor the media.
The demonstrators’ encampment at Government House was attacked and cleared by riot police shortly after the emergency order was issued.
The timing led some among the anti-government faction to suspect a conspiracy. Activist and civil rights lawyer Arnon Nampa said he believed the incident was planned by police to paint the protesters as disloyal to the monarchy.
“It was intended to trick demonstrators and create an image of them blocking the motorcade,” Arnon, who is now under arrest, said on his Facebook. “In fact, it was the police who led the convoy towards us.”
The next protest is planned for 4pm at Ratchaprasong Intersection.