BANGKOK - Government figures yesterday urged people not to join the "Bangkok shutdown" mass rally scheduled for January 13, warning that the protest was against the law. They also sought to discredit the movement - as the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) unveiled its plan for another march today.
PDRC spokesman Akanat Promphan said yesterday that the 7.5-kilometre march today would begin at 10am from Democracy Monument, where the anti-government protest has continued for more than two months.
He said the march this time would pass Phra Phuttha Yodfa Bridge, which is also known as Memorial Bridge, Pahurat (Bangkok's Little India), and roads on the Thon Buri side of the city.
There would also be similar marches on Tuesday and Thursday (Jan 7 and 9), the spokesman said.
He also called on the government's Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) to have measures that could prevent further violence against protesters. He said the PDRC protesters would not resort to violence.
Akanat said there had been repeated attempts to attack the PDRC after it managed to mobilise more and more people at its three previous mass rallies in November and December.
PDRC leaders yesterday had a meeting at an undisclosed location on Rajdamnoen Avenue to discuss their "Bangkok shutdown" plan, according to the spokesman.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Towichukchaikul, who is in charge of the CAPO, said yesterday the government appealed for people to think carefully on whether they should join the shutdown. He urged them not to support the PDRC's idea of occupying 20 major intersections in the capital, as part of a bid to force the caretaker Cabinet to resign en masse.
He said such an action would be in violation of the law and rights of other people, and it would bring severe negative impacts on the economy.
Surapong said the authorities were preparing "strong measures" to deal with the shutdown.
Deputy spokesman for the ruling Pheu Thai Party, Anusorn Iamsaard said it was estimated that protests organised by the PDRC had caused more than Bt70 billion in damage to the Thai economy. A Bangkok shutdown could increase the damage to more than Bt200 billion, he said.
On Friday night, anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban announced that the PDRC rally site at Democracy Monument on Rajdamnoen Avenue would be shut down on the day of "Bangkok Shutdown" on Jan 13.
He said new rally stages would instead be set up at 20 major intersections where mass demonstrations would be held all across Bangkok as part of a campaign to "seize" the capital.
"For those of you desiring to join us at Rajdamnoen on the day, please come no later than the evening of January 12. We are leaving Democracy Monument for good on January 13 for other grounds and not looking back," he said.
In a related development, Singapore Airlines said it would cancel 19 flights to Bangkok in the coming weeks as political tensions in the Thai capital were keeping some travellers away, according to The Straits Times.
Travel agents are also seeing fewer bookings as leisure travellers opt for less-troubled spots in Thailand like Phuket. The slowdown has even affected Bangkok's popularity as a destination for corporate travel, and meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (Mice) events, they said.
SIA, which flies five times a day to Bangkok, will cancel about one in 10 flights between Jan 14 and Feb 25. Affected customers will be put on other flights or given refunds if they cancel plans, a spokesman said.