Thai police have warned of a plot to abduct Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra as her cabinet approved using an internal security law to manage an anti- government rally scheduled for tomorrow.
"We have some worrisome intelligence that there may be violence when a lot of people gather," National police chief Adul Sangsingkeo said in Bangkok yesterday. "We are also very concerned about rumours about riots and the abduction of the prime minister."
Police expect tens of thousands of people to attend the rally at the Royal Plaza. It is organised by the royalist group Pitak Siam, which opposes the government.
The Internal Security Act would be enforced in three districts of the capital's historic quarter for nine days, officials said after the cabinet approved the measure.
It enables the government to prevent the use of certain routes or vehicles, impose a curfew, ban gatherings, carry out searches of buildings and censor the media.
Nearly 17,000 police will be deployed for the rally, according to officials. It will be the first major protest against Yingluck's 16-month-old government.
"Security agencies report that violence might erupt which would result in damage to lives and property," said Varathep Rattanakorn, minister to the Prime Minister's Office.
Thailand has been rocked by sometimes violent rival street protests in recent years, although an uneasy calm has returned since elections last year.
Two months of mass opposition protests in 2010 by "Red Shirt" supporters of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra sparked a military crackdown that left about 90 people dead and nearly 1,900 wounded.
The unrest happened under a previous establishment-backed government that was swept from power last year by allies of Thaksin, whose sister Yingluck is now prime minister.
The organisers said they expected at least 500,000 protesters to attend, although the authorities estimate about 40,000 to 50,000 will turn out.
"This government ignores widespread disrespect of the monarchy and even supports the perpetrators. It is a puppet of Thaksin," said Pitak Siam spokesman Vachara Riddhagni.
Observers say prosecutions for insulting the monarchy have surged since royalist generals toppled Thaksin in 2006.
Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse