(15 January) The Royal Thai Army has sent a representative to inspect an anti-government rally site following a gunfire attack there last night.
The attack took place close to Chalermla Bridge at midnight last night, where many protesters were sleeping in their tents and camps near the main rally stage at Pathumwan Intersection.
The rally site is one of the 7 major intersections and roads occupied by the People′s Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD) as a part of "Bangkok Shutdown" campaign.
Two individuals were reported injured by the gunfire, which erupted sporadically for an hour. Reports suggest that one of them is a garbage collector working for Bangkok city authorities, while the other person is a 55 year old woman from Surat Thani province.
The police have not arrested any suspect in connection with the attack, and details concerning the incident are not immediately clear, but witnesses in the area claim the gunfire came from the direction of the nearby Asia Hotel. Loud bangs of firecrackers were also heard during the attack.
Although PCAD protest sites have been targeted by drive-by shootings and bomb attacks in the past, the gunfire attack at Chalermla Bridge last night is widely seen as one of the most high-profile incidents so far, as it took place in the downtown heart of Bangkok, and in extreme proximity to Sra Pathum Palace, the official residence of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn.
Later this morning, Maj.Gen. Nattaphon Srisawasdi, a high-ranking officer of the Royal Thai Army, visited the protest site at Pathumwan Intersection with his entourage to inspect the scene and meet with troops stationed nearby.
Maj.Gen. Nattaphon said his visit has been directly ordered by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army.
Gen. Prayuth has instructed the army leadership to provide security to the people in timely manner, Maj.Gen. Nattaphon told reporters, but added that the army has been also ordered to maintain its distance from the ongoing "conflict".
Maj.Gen. Nattaphon later met with soldiers and other security forces inside Sra Pathum Palace to discuss the attack last night. The officials reportedly told Maj.Gen. Nattaphon that the security inside the palace has not been affected in any way by the incident.
Commander of the royal bodyguards at the palace, Maj.Gen. Warah Boonyasith, also told reporters that Gen. Prayuth has explicitly ordered the army to help the people of all sides and to prevent violent incidents.
To improve the security in the area around Pathumwan Intersection, Maj.Gen. Warah said the army will deploy response units in 10 spots in the vicinity.
"Gen. Prayuth has ordered us to pay attention to the area surrounding Huan Chang Bridge," Maj.Gen. Warah said, using the common name of Chalermla Bridge, "As it is very close to Sra Prathum Palace. He also asked us to reach understanding with the protesters that they must make way for royal convoy. The protesters understood that".
Redshirts activists have accused the Royal Thai Army of giving tacit support PCAD protests, but the army has repeatedly denied the allegation.
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