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1 Feb, 2014

“It Begins With the People” – Bangkok Braces for Complete Shutdown on Feb 2, E-Day


The following is a day by day summary of the Thailand protests in January 2014, issued by Security Alert Service.

Friday 31, January 2014 – On Dec 28, 2013 (protest leader) Suthep (Thaugsuban) declared that the entire capital Bangkok will be completely shut down by millions of people opposing the Thaksin regime. Addressing several thousands of supporters at the Democracy Monument, Suthep said, “the shutdown of the capital will begin when people return to Bangkok after the long New Year festival holidays. He said the shutdown or what he described was the seizure of the capital would be the day when “People’s Revolution” would begin to end and uproot the Thaksin regime”.

On Dec 30, the Election Commission (EC) volunteered to act as the mediator in the dispute between the government and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest group.

On Jan 1, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asked the military to help police enforce law and order if protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban carries out his threat to ‘‘shut down’’ Army Commander Gen Prayuth Chanocha appeared uneasy about using soldiers to help police. The army was heavily criticised over its role in the 2010 political violence. Furthermore, Ms Yingluck also asked military leaders if they would be interested in joining a proposed political reform assembly.

On Jan 2, Mass protest leader Suthep has set Monday, January 13 as the date on which opponents of the government will ”close down Bangkok.” Announcement of the date is likely to bring tourism cancellations and travel warnings. Rallies will begin on January 5 with various sites targeted, he said. Water and power would be cut off in the lead up to the January 13 shutdown showdown from 9am. Twenty stages would be set up at Bangkok intersections, Khun Suthep said.

Also on Jan 2, Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn met with key figures from the Pheu Thai and Democrat parties at a Bangkok hotel in a bid to break the impasse over the Feb 2 general election. However, both parties refused to give any ground. The Democrats insisted on deferring the election until after political reforms take place while Pheu Thai demanded that the polls proceed as scheduled. Talks between the country’s two major parties to find a solution to the election wrangle have failed, the Election Commission says.

On Jan 3, Military leaders raised objections to any invocation of the emergency decree by the government, saying there are no grounds for its enactment. The decree would require troops to assist police officers in handling anti-government protesters’ plan to ‘‘shut down’’ Bangkok from Jan 13. National Security Council (NSC) chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said the armed forces chiefs believed the protest situation did not yet warrant the enforcement of the emergency decree.

On Jan 4, PM Yingluck asked the military to act as a mediator between the government and the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) ahead of the shutdown plan, a government source said. PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban met several top military figures on Saturday to discuss how to end the crisis. No progress resulted from the talks as Mr Suthep reiterated his demands for an interim government to push for national reforms, the source said.

On Jan 5, The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) will stage a march in downtown Bangkok as a precursor for its planned shutdown of the capital on Jan 13. Today, anti-government protesters will begin the first part of their ‘‘Bangkok Shutdown’’ campaign today, as the government threatens strict enforcement of security measures to keep peace and order. Marches will also take place on Tuesday and Thursday but only in daytime daylight hours because of safety concerns, PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said. Today, the demonstrators will start off at 10am and move in an 8km loop starting from Democracy Monument to the Memorial Bridge, Phahurat, Yaowarat, Worachak and back to their main Ratchadamnoen base.

On Jan 6, The army announced it plans to move heavy artillery and armaments into Bangkok tonight. The announcement was to help reduce any fear of a military coup. The army said people should not feel nervous about a military coup. The force had planned to relocate the armaments to Bangkok this Saturday and Sunday but moved the date up to avoid the anti-government shutdown next Monday.

On Jan 7, The National Security Council announced that the Internal Security act will be imposed on Jan 13th to handle anti-Government protesters. This being one stage before the final option of evoking emergency law. Also, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) resolved to press charges against 308 ex-MPs and senators accused of misconduct in connection with the charter amendment on making the Senate fully elected. If a guilty ruling results from the charges, it would affect the setting up of a new government after the Feb 2 election. Also, Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said the government would in principle be held responsible for any violence that might break out during anti-government demonstrations. Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban cross Krung Thon Bridge yesterday as they woo support from the public. Protesters trying to topple Thailand’s prime minister marched in Bangkok on Tuesday to drum up support for their plans to bring the capital to a halt next week.

On Jan 10, The Election Commission (EC) announced that it plans to formally ask the caretaker government to issue a new royal decree to reschedule the Feb 2 elections. Yesterday, EC commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said the EC decided at a meeting that it will send a letter to ask the caretaker government to issue a new royal decree to cancel the Feb 2 election stipulated in the royal decree issued on Dec 9 last year. The decree also dissolved the House of Representatives and paved the way for the Feb 2 poll.

On Jan 14, PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban vowed to close all government offices in the coming days, and threatened to ‘‘detain’’ the prime minister and all members of her cabinet and cut power and water to their homes. ‘I think they [cabinet ministers] should send their children and spouses elsewhere,’’ Mr Suthep warned. Also, two people were injured in a bomb and gun attack near the
Chalerm La 56 bridge, not far from the Pathumwan intersection rally site, around midnight on Tuesday. It followed a bomb attack on the housing compound of Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva a short time earlier.

On Jan 17, a grenade was hurled at protesters. Rally boss Suthep Thaugsuban holds the caretaker government responsible for the grenade attack on demonstrators taking part in a march and vowed to once again escalate his anti-government protest. However, police have raised questions about the incident in which protester guards blocked police and reporters entering the area near the attack scene where they claimed they found a weapons stockpile. Police also queried the last-minute change in the protest route. There was also intense speculation on social media yesterday that some military officers had cooperated with the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) in setting up the attack. When the procession was about to pass Charoenphol intersection, an explosion was heard. A bomb was reportedly hurled from a building which was in the process of being demolished. After the explosion, protesters were seen running into the deserted building, trying to capture an assailant. Gunshots were also heard. In a highly emotional speech after the attack, Mr Suthep said the grenade blast that left 36 wounded, one in serious condition, was the work of the government and called on the protesters to draw strength from it.

On Jan 21, The caretaker government invoked emergency law in Bangkok for the next two months in attempt to control ongoing political protests. The enforcement of the emergency decree will cover all of Bangkok and part of Nonthburi, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakan provinces from Wednesday.

On Jan 23, the government issued six measures to tackle the protests, including a ban on gatherings of five people or more. Under the measures, newspapers and other media are prohibited from presenting news which could raise public fears or distorting information that could affect national security. The Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order (CMPO) will be in charge of enforcing the measures under the emergency decree. The measures were published in the Royal Gazette yesterday. To ensure security and maintain public order, the CMPO can prohibit the use of certain routes or the use of vehicles, and ban the use of buildings as well as declaring any premises off-limits to the public. The centre can also order people to be evacuated from certain areas for their safety. The CMPO will be responsible for setting the time-frames for enforcing the measures and applying conditions for operations to avoid causing more trouble to the public than necessary. The government declared Bangkok and its surrounding provinces were under a state of emergency from Wednesday, effective for 60 days, following a spate of violence at anti-government protest sites organised by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

On Jan 26, Suthin Tharathin, a core protest leader, was shot dead at Wat Sri Iam in the Bang Na area, while three others were injured in an attack at a polling station in the Bang Na area of Bangkok, according to media reports. Suthin was a leader of the People’s Democratic Force to Overthrow Thaksinism (Pefot). He led a group of protesters under the People’s. Democratic Reform Committee to a polling station at Wat Sri Iam in Bang Na at around 11.30am after learning that booths were still open for advance voting.

On Jan 28, two people were injured in protest violence opposite the Army Club during a meeting between caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Election Commission chairman Supachai Somcharoen. A protester was shot in the abdomen as supporters of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) gathered on the inbound lane of Vibhavadi Rangsit Road, opposite the Army Club. The alleged gunman was apprehended by a group of protesters, who then proceeded to beat the suspect. Sutthisan police chief Pol Col Samroeng Suanthong and his investigators rushed to collect evidence at the crime scene and said police had not determined whether the alleged gunman was a police officer in disguise. Meanwhile, the body of an unidentified man believed to be an anti-government protester was discovered yesterday near Samian Nari temple on a local road adjacent to Vibhavadi Rangsit. There were two layers of T-shirts on the body. The outer T-shirt was black with the words ‘‘People’s revolution’’ printed on it. A Thai-flag wristband was on the man’s right wrist. These are some of the slogans and symbols being used by anti-government protesters. Deputy metropolitan police chief Pol Maj Gen Ittipol Piriyapinyo, who visited the scene with investigators, said police have yet to conclude at this stage if the man was a demonstrator. Someone could have put a protest T-shirt on the body after the man’s death, Pol Maj Gen Ittipol said. Police said he had been shot four times in the chest with the bullets exiting via his back. The man had apparently been beaten before being shot since his face and body were swollen. His ankles had also been tied with a rope.

On Jan 30, The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) stepped up security at its Lat Phrao rally stage after the site was hit by a grenade early yesterday morning, wounding two people. The grenade, believed to have been fired from a spot on a nearby road, hit the side of a ventilation funnel near the main entrance to Chatuchak subway station about 3.50am. After the attack, PDRC Security ordered patrols by PDRC guards to be stepped up. Netting has been installed above the protesters’ tents to catch grenades being lobbed into the area.

On Jan 31, Anti-government protesters plan to stage two protest marches in Bangkok today and on Feb 1, leading up to mass rallies on 2 February to “completely shutdown” the city on the day of the general election. Anti-government protesters may clash with police in areas where demonstrations are banned, and further attacks by rival elements involving grenades, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or small-arms remain possible. Any increased presence of pro-government Red Shirts in Bangkok will significantly increase the likelihood of violent confrontations between rival protesters. On Jan 30, a Red Shirt leader called on supporters to protect the general election and make sure that voting can take place properly, though she did not specify what actions the Red Shirts will take and whether they will enter Bangkok. Previously on 26 January, “White Shirt” had gathered in front of some Bangkok polling stations to counter the anti-government protesters’ attempt to interrupt advance voting. Some critics claim the White Shirts are actually Red Shirts, and pro-government hard line elements are already active within Bangkok, as evidenced by recent attacks targeting anti-government protesters.