Thai police warned of a plot to abduct Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as her cabinet approved using an internal security law to manage an anti-government rally scheduled for tomorrow.
“We have some worrisome intelligence that there may be violence when a lot of people gather,” National Police Chief Adul Sangsingkeo told reporters in Bangkok yesterday. “We are also very concerned about rumors about riots and the abduction of the prime minister.”
The law giving security forces power to set up roadblocks and make decisions quickly will be applied in three districts in the capital until Nov. 30. Yingluck, the sister of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, said in a televised address late yesterday that “reducing political conflicts and promoting national reconciliation are vital to economic development.”
Groups who backed the ouster of Thaksin-linked governments in 2006 and 2008 are now aiming to remove Yingluck from power. Tit-for-tat demonstrations by Thaksin’s supporters and opponents since the coup against him have killed more than 100 people and led to road blockages and arson attacks.
“The situation is expected to be intense with a lot of people gathering, so the security agencies agreed to ask the cabinet to announce the security law,” said Paradorn Pattanathabutr, secretary-general of the National Security Council, adding that police would only use shields and batons. “This will be to accommodate the protesters, not stop them.”
50,000 or 500,000
Police are preparing about 10,000 officers to handle the demonstration and expect more than 50,000 people to attend. Siam Pitak, the anti-government group holding the rally, aims to attract half a million people, according to spokesman Watchara Ritthakhanee, who welcomed the use of the internal security law because it would help prevent violence.
The government is concerned that violence may be provoked by demonstrators disguised as members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, the pro-Thaksin group known as the Red Shirts, JP Morgan Securities (Thailand) Ltd. wrote yesterday in a note to clients.
“Despite the noise, there appears to be little likelihood of any eruption, as the UDD red shirts have judiciously announced plans to give the protest a wide berth,” JP Morgan equity analyst Sriyan Pietersz wrote, adding that the political tension may damp overseas demand for Thai stocks.
The government imposed the internal security law to “preempt and prevent any situations” that threaten order, Yingluck said in her speech.
“The government believes in freedom of expression and is convinced that the Parliament is the place for the people’s representatives to settle differences in viewpoints and resolve political conflicts,” she said.
The opposition group led by Boonlert Kaewprasit, a retired army general, held a rally on Oct. 28 that attracted between 8,000 and 20,000 people, according to estimates from police and organizers. Yingluck’s party won a parliamentary majority in July 2011.
“We have no intention whatsoever to stage any violent rally against the government,” he said by phone. “It’s just gathering people who cannot tolerate the behavior of the government.”
Thai Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong said he has sought to reassure foreign investors that no violence will occur. The benchmark SET Index gained 0.2 percent yesterday.
“Thai politics have never been calm for very long,” he told reporters. “Protest rallies have become routine for Bangkok people. Another big rally this weekend should be fine as long as it doesn’t turn violent.”