Thailand: PM readies for rally showdown

  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on 19 Aug 20 instructed military and security agencies to prepare for student demonstrations which are expected to escalate in Sep 20 when the incumbent military leaders retire.
  • Gen Prayut on 19 Aug 20 chaired a special meeting of security agencies at the National Security Council (NSC) to assess potential threats to national security.
  • Among those present were Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda, NSC secretary-general Somsak Roongsita and Defence Forces chief Gen Pornpipat Benyasri.
  • All eyes were on the meeting as Gen Prayut invited senior military officers—who are tipped to become the new leaders of the armed forces, replacing the incumbents who will retire at the end of Sep 20 — to the meeting.
  • Gen Somsak said Gen Prayut called the meeting to discuss the ongoing political situation.
  • In Sep 20, two groups of student protesters and activists—the Free People group and a group of Thammasat University students—plan to escalate anti-government demonstrations.
  • A source said Gen Prayut is concerned that someone may exploit the situation to instigate unrest by using young protesters as a tool to use against authorities so that when the situation gets out of hand, the military might step in to maintain order.
  • Gen Prayut said on 19 Aug 20 he did not oppose the protests but many demands of the protesters were not possible to implement.

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