Govt 'War Room' To Tackle Bangkok Shutdown

Anti-government protesters at Ratchadamnoen Avenue, 2 January 2014

(3 January) The government is forming "war rooms" to monitor and tackle the upcoming plan by the anti-government protesters to "shutdown" Bangkok on 13 January.


Protesters led by People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) have vowed to occupy at least 20 major intersections and cause massive gridlock in the capital city in the bid to pressure Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra into resigning from her caretaker position.
The PCAD also demands that the general election on 2 February 2014 be scrapped in favour of the establishment of an unelected ?People′s Council? to rule Thailand as a transitional government and implement series of reforms deemed desirable by the PCAD.
But the government has repeatedly rejected the protesters? demands. Officials also state they are preparing for the "shutdown" on 13 January.
Minister of Transport Chatchart Sitthipan said he plans to set up a centre operated under the Ministry of Transport to monitor the situation and attempt to lessen the massive traffic jam, which is expected to engulf Bangkok on the day.
"To decrease the effect on the public, I have instructed the agencies to increase trips of public buses, suburban trains, and express boats," said Mr. Chatchart.
He also asked the public not to drive their cars into the downtown during the "shutdown" to lessen traffic congestion and said the tollway authorities are figuring out how to manage the particularly severe congestion on 13 January.
Furthermore, Mr. Chatchart warned that the protesters who disrupt the traffic or cause damage to transport of goods, such as occupying ports or airports, would be severely punished under the laws.
Meanwhile, Minister of Interior Affairs Jarupong Ruengsuwan told reporters the government is working closely with administrations of public utilities in Bangkok to make sure there would be not be any cut of electric power or water during the shutdown, as some leaders of PCAD have threatened.
Additionally, a special "war room" would be set up by the government to handle the protests on 13 January, apart from the existing Center for Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO), according to Mr. Jarupong.
Mr. Jarupong downplayed the fears that violence could erupt in Bangkok during the shutdown, after the pro-government Redshirts have announced plans to stage counter protests on the same day. 
However, he encouraged members of the public who do not agree with PCAD′s tactics to turn on the headlights of their vehicles during daytime as means to express their opposition. These dissidents should also turn to the Internet and campaign against the "shutdown" of Bangkok, Mr. Jarupong added.
"Mr. Suthep should think about his plan carefully, because there are many Bangkokians who are against it," Mr. Jarupong said, referring to secretary general of the PCAD, Mr. Suthep Thaugsuban.
The government′s move to establish their own centres of protest resolution also came at a time when tension between the government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) is increasingly apparent.
Bangkok Governor, Sukhumbhand Paribatra, has been accused by supporters of the government of subtly endorsing the PCAD protests. His recent appearance at the protest rally site to assist Mr. Suthep′s "Big Cleaning Day" reinforced this allegation even further.
Perhaps out of the suspicion that BMA is siding with the protesters, Mr. Jarupong has yesterday sent an official letter to the BMA, reminding the administration of its duty to serve the Bangkok public with an unbiased attitude.
The letter also implored the BMA to refrain from lending official equipment or vehicles to the protesters, and urged the administration to organise adequate responses to the upcoming "Bangkok shutdown", such as providing additional public transports to the commuters. 
"I believe the Governor of Bangkok will proceed his duty according to the laws," the letter said, "Because no one is above the laws".

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