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NEWS UPDATES 20 April 2010

Thai protesters cancel planned mass rally

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Thailand's anti-government Red Shirt leaders on Tuesday resolved not to hold a mass rally at the capital's financial hub on Silom Road as the government warned that troops are allowed to use weapons for self-defence against armed attack by protesters, state news agency TNA reported.

Natthawut Saikua, one of the top leaders of the 'Red Shirt' United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), announced at their Ratchaprasong protest site, the capital's prime commercial and shopping area, that the protesters will not move to Silom Road as the area is now 'under seige' by the military which deployed a large number of armed troops.

Natthawut also said the Reds will step up extra security at all roads leading to Ratchaprasong to guard against any military operations against them. Special security is provided for all UDD leaders at backstage.

The UDD leader made the announcement hours after Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said the government is pressing ahead with arresting Red Shirts leaders and terrorists, but set no deadline to retake Ratchaprasong back from the protesters.

Suthep who supervises national security spoke to reporters before cabinet meeting at the 11th Infantry Regiment that the deadline will pressure officials and will cause a problem.

The Yellow Shirts, the arch rival of the Red Shirts, announced earlier that they gave the government seven days to end the Red Shirt protest.

Speaking in his capacity as the director of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation (CRES), Suthep rejected the Red Shirts’ claim that that law-enforcement officers have now been granted a licence to kill if the Red Shirt leaders resist their arrest attempt.

The government’s move respects and abides by the law, but security officials are allowed to use weapons for self-defence against any attack by armed protesters, Suthep warned.

The deputy prime minister said also that the government can handle the situation under its emergency decree and that it is unnecessary to invoke martial law.

Suthep said he was not worried about the Red Shirt public information CDs reporting the April 10 clashes which were distributed to the public for the people to judge for themselves what information is distorted.

However, the security chief said he is quite concerned about the new multi-coloured movement and the imminent reappearance of the Yellow Shirts on the streets. The Peoples' Alliance (PAD) Yellow Shirts oppose both a House dissolution and the Red Shirt protest.

Suthep asked all three groups of protesters to refrain from provocation or bringing their demonstrations into close proximity with each other to avoid confrontation. Police and troops will be deployed to provide security to protesters.

Meanwhile, army spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd, warned Tuesday the protesters would face tear gas and live weapons fired in decisive actions to thwart any life-threatening attacks.

Col Sansern said latest intelligence reports indicate that the terrorists mingling among protesters are well-equipped with hand grenades, molotov cocktails, sharpened staves and even acid attacks are ready for use against the troops, so the operation must be fine-tuned to protect the lives of security forces.

"The officers must use live weapons only to deter law-violating act, but [the weapons] are not intended to take their lives," said the army spokesman.

The stern warning came ten days after street clashes between the security forces and protesters in Bangkok's Khok Wua intersection left 25 persons dead and 800 injured in the operation to dislodge the red-shirted protesters from main protest site at Phan Fa Bridge.


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