Thai parliament readies ‘highest’ security, VIP chopper for Thursday protest

Thai parliament readies ‘highest’ security, VIP chopper for Thursday protest
The Parliament will elevate security to its highest levels Thursday when the next pro-democracy rally takes place there.

Continuing to strike a position of accommodation, officials said they would provide food stalls and restrooms to welcome protesters to the yet-unfinished Sappaya-Sapasathan building on Samsen Road, where debate will be tabled on revising the constitution. Assembly Sec-Gen Sorasak Pienwech said that because its incomplete state makes it unable to host thousands of protesters, he gamely suggested protesters postpone their plans.

“If the mob waits for a year, everything will be better,” he said, citing the narrow road outside the facility, which is years behind schedule.

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Sorasak said no attempt would be made to limit free expression despite the heightened security measures, which include a helicopter on standby to evacuate parliamentarians meeting that day, if needed. More police will be assigned to the building and marine patrols will begin a 24-hour patrol of the Chao Phraya River, which adjoins the lavish structure.

Revising the junta-authored constitution adopted by the public in a flawed 2016 referendum that cemented military rule is a top demand of those calling for the government to step down. Neither protesters nor security forces resorted to violence this past weekend when tens of thousands packed Thammasat University and the Sanam Luang. Still, they were constrained by hundreds of police, large vehicles and barbed wire used as barricades to prevent the crowd from reaching places such as the Government House or Grand Palace.

The next protest target was announced at Sunday’s rally by student leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration to pressure the assembly to enact real reforms as it takes up the contentious issue of once again rewriting the charter.

“We have proved that changes don’t need violence,” he told a large crowd gathered in Bangkok’s Sanam Luang. 

Thursday’s event is organized by the Free People Movement, which has focused its fire on the government rather than the monarchy.

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