Thai authorities tighten security ahead of ruling that may disband Thaksin’s party

 International Herald Tribune

Thai authorities tighten security ahead of ruling that may disband Thaksin’s party

The Associated Press

Published: May 29, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand: Security has been tightened in Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok amid fears that supporters of ousted Premier Thaksin Shinawatra may react violently ahead of a tribunal ruling that may disband the country’s two largest parties, officials said Tuesday.

The Constitutional Tribunal is due to rule on Wednesday whether the Thai Rak Thai Party of former Prime Minister Thaksin, and its Democrat Party rival, violated election laws in April last year.

If found guilty, either or both parties could be dissolved, or their executives barred from public office for five years, or both.

The leaders of both parties have publicly promised to accept the court’s ruling, but some senior members of Thai Rak Thai had earlier threatened to stage mass protests if their party is disbanded.

Metropolitan police chief Maj. Gen. Adisorn Nontree said 1,800 uniformed and plainclothes police will be stationed on the streets and closed-circuit cameras will be placed in the court compound to prepare for the ruling.

Vehicles with spotlights and bomb squads will also be monitoring the area from Tuesday evening onward while mobile phone signals will be turned off during the verdict to allay fears of possible bombings.

More than 10,000 security personnel will be on standby in case the situation spirals out of control, said Col. Sansern Chaenkamnerd, spokesman for the military’s Council for National Security.

“We also have an evacuation plan for the judges and court officials in the event that their security is threatened,” Sansern said.

Authorities have also set up checkpoints on Bangkok-bound highways as officials anticipated thousands of villagers entering Bangkok to protest the possible dissolution of Thai Rak Thai, which still has strong support in the rural northeast of the country.

“The checkpoints are there to make sure people don’t carry weapons,” said Sansern.

Authorities have also urged the public to monitor the ruling from home and avoid taking to the streets, as the verdict will be broadcast live on television and radio.

Thaksin was ousted in a bloodless military coup last September after months of street protests and flawed elections. Now living abroad, he and his family are under investigation for alleged corruption and other offenses.

Thai Rak Thai is accused of financing obscure parties to run against it to get around rules requiring a minimum voter turnout in constituencies where single candidates run unopposed. The Democrat Party is accused of conniving with some small parties to lure Thai Rak Thai into illegally funding them.

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