Thailand to impose security law for Thaksin protests

BANGKOK: Thailand’s government said today it plans to invoke a harsh security act allowing the military to deal with mass rallies this weekend by supporters of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Authorities have warned of possible violence when the so-called “Red Shirts” gather in Bangkok on March 14, just over two weeks after a court sparked anger by seizing 1.4 billion dollars of Thaksin’s fortune.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said he would ask the cabinet on Tuesday to invoke the Internal Security Act, which permits the army to help the police and gives the authorities powers to impose curfews and ban gatherings.

He said the law would be enforced across Bangkok and in some districts of nearby provinces from March 11 to 23, “for the safety of the people from unexpected incidents”. The decision came following a meeting with security agencies this morning, after intelligence reports indicated threats of violence from protesters, Suthep said.

Senior Reds insist they will protest peacefully, but Suthep said the maximum level of security forces would be deployed as the government was not confident protest leaders could control the movement, which contains several factions.

It promises to be the biggest rally since last April, when up to 100,000 Red Shirts protested against current prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and ensuing riots left two people dead and derailed a major Asian summit.

The Reds have held a string of protests since another court decision removed Thaksin’s allies from government and brought Abhisit to power in December 2008, after a blockade of Bangkok’s airports by rival, royalist “Yellow Shirts”.

Thaksin was toppled in a coup in 2006 and is living in exile, mainly in Dubai, to avoid a two-year jail sentence for graft imposed in absentia. He has vowed to fight the confiscation of his wealth.