The political tensions in Thailand has again surfaced. Several thousand anti-government demonstrators assembled on Sunday evening in Lumpini Park in the centre of the city. Eight kilometers away, hundreds of riot police in full battle gear have since Friday been deployed in a ring around the Thai Parliament and several roads near by. To give the police a free hand in suppressing the crowd, special decrees have been issued under the Internal Security Act restricting free movement in the area until Aug 10.
The area affected is inside the red line:
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The number of demonstrators reached on Sunday 5 -6000 people at its peak. The massive deployment of riot police indicates, however, that something more than what meets the eye seems to be cooking. Their Majesties the King and Queen was last week relocated to Hua Hin 200 km south of the capital in a move that surprised many. And with an interesting timing, the Royal Thai Army then decided to inform the public that the tanks and other hardware, that they were about to move in and out of the capital, was not a preparation for a coup.
The demonstrators oppose passing a law that will grant amnesty to an estimated 1,000 people on both sides of Thailand’s political divide retroactively, starting with the coup d’etat of 2006 which unseated then Premier Thaksin Shinawatra, current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s billionaire brother. The law will be put to the vote in Parliament on Aug 7, according to the ruling Puea Thai party.
The protest organisers, from a range of anti-Thaksin groups allying in a so-called “People’s Army”, claim the law could let people convicted of offending the monarchy out of jail and pave the way for the return of Thaksin from self-exile abroad.
Thai National Police Chief Police General Adul Saengsingkaew will act as head of a peacekeeping centre to be set up that will be located at the Royal Thai Police headquarters, according to National Security Council secretary general Lt Gen Paradorn Pattanatabut, who on Thursday announced the invocation of the ISA.
The police will monitor the situation round the clock to prevent any clashes between supporters and detractors of the bill, he said.
Thai riot policemen stand guard outside the parliament in Bangkok August 1, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS
“There is no immediate threat to tourists,” tweeted Richard Barrow Friday to followers of his well informed tourist blog richardbarrow.com.
“However, it is not advisable to visit any of the protest sites around Parliament and Government House. Nearby tourist attractions include Vimanmek Teak Mansion, Dusit Zoo, The Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall and The Marble Temple. Tourists should avoid this area while the ISA is being invoked.”
On Sunday, the Dusit Zoo was empty, but Asian tourists continued to arrive in busloads to visit the Ananda Samakhom Throne Hall watching curiously the riot police assembled across the road.
Danish Ambassador Mikael Hemnitit Winther said Friday that he had not taken any steps to change the current travel advise for Danish tourists visiting Thailand.
“The general advise remains that people should refrain from going to any area where the authorities are expecting trouble. Some tourists may be curious to see what is going on, but it is the wrong place to be if something should happen,” the Ambassador adds.
Thai National Police Chief Police General Adul Saengsingkaew in charge of the peacekeeping centre.
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