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Ongoing mass anti-gov't rally in Bangkok feared to turn violent
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By Nuttanan Srithorn

The ongoing mass anti-government rally in capital Bangkok on Saturday is feared to turn violent, amid military coup speculation, while the economic sector urges the government to ensure peace at the rally site in a bid to maintain foreign investors' confidence.

The mass rally, which is organized by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), is aimed to topple the current coalition government.

From Friday until Tuesday (Sept. 18 to 22), the Internal Security Act (ISA) has been enforced at Dusit district in the center of capital Bangkok in a bid to ensure law and order.

On Saturday afternoon, the UDD protestors started gathering at the Royal Plaza inside Dusit district and later in the day will march to the Si Sao Thewes residence of the president of the Privy Council, General Prem Tinsulanonda.

The protest is also to mark the third anniversary of the Sept. 19, 2006 military coup, which did bring down former premier Thaksin Shinawatra from power.

And, Thaksin has been perceived as the real leader of the UDD people or the red-shirted people.

The UDD group has long accused General Prem of being behind the military coup three years ago.

Meanwhile, General Somjet Boonthanom, a former secretary- general of the now-defunct Council for National Security (CNS) was quoted by Matichon Online as saying on Thursday that "if there was no coup (on Sept.19, 2006), we would have never known how much the country would be further corrupted by Thaksin. What would be left for the country?"

The CNS was transformed from the military-led Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) that was set up after launching a successful coup on Sept. 19, 2006 to oust Thaksin.

Government concerned of violence

Though the UDD core leaders said they will rally peacefully and disperse at Saturday's midnight, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said Friday the government will declare a state of emergency if the ISA law is proved inadequate to control the rally situation.

Intelligence has showed that the protestors will gather at the premises of certain state offices including military barracks and homes of important figures, acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn disclosed Thursday.

Hence, the government plans to deploy a combined police and soldier force of almost 10,000 officers to maintain law and order during the UDD rally.

Thaksin is seen to mobilize all of his men, including those in uniform, to try to topple the government, Suriyasai Katasila, secretary-general of the New Politics Party, established by the People's Alliance for Democracy, has warned, The Nation newspaper' s website reported recently.

Thaksin will use his network to carry out underground operations to try to overthrow the coalition government since it is expected the number of the UDD protestors at the rally site will not be enough to depose the government, he said.

Metropolitan police estimates that about 30,000 red-shirted people will participate in the anti-government rally on Saturday.

Security agencies will also need to monitor the situation outside the rally site as Thaksin will use his network to stage a disturbance nearby the rally site so that violence could escalate until the government collapses, Suriyasai added.

"Thaksin has realized that this Saturday's rally will be his last chance to overthrow the government," he said.

If Thaksin fails, it will be harder to bring down the Democrat- led government, which might complete its four-year terms, he said.

And, Thaksin could potentially be convicted in other cases and his network could eventually disintegrate, Suriyasai added.

Suriyasai's view is backed by a comment made by Sopon Onkgara recently published in the Nation's website that "Is there any other significant aspect to this rally? Yes, political and business cronies of Thaksin face a high risk of jail terms, with three court cases -- involving government lotteries, rubber saplings and shady deals with Cambodia over land surrounding the Preah Vihear temple -- awaiting verdicts. The prospects of them going free remain quite bleak."

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