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Thai Junta Readies For Bangkok Protests With 6,000 Troops

BANGKOK - Thailand's junta has prepared a force of over 6,000 troops and police for deployment in Bangkok Sunday to smother protests and prevent opposition to the May 22 coup from gaining momentum.

The military has cracked down hard on pro-democracy dissidents and supporters since it ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra last month, seeking to mute criticism and nip protests in the bud.

A heavy security force presence at potential flashpoints in Thailand's largest cities since the coup has limited protesters to small gatherings, which are often coordinated through social media and mostly located around shopping malls.

Authorities were focusing on five possible protest sites in Bangkok on Sunday, said deputy police chief Somyot Poompanmoung.

They included the country's main international airport and the downtown area around the Grand Palace, as well as sites where protests have previously taken place, he said. The palace is one of Bangkok's top tourist attractions.

Image: Military coup aftermath protests
Thai police and soldiers patrol Skytrain stations and shopping centers searching for protesters in Bangkok Sunday. BARBARA WALTON / EPA

"We hope the protests would not ignite any violence and would end peacefully," Somyot said.

The force on Sunday numbered 27 army companies and 15 police companies, Somyot said. A similar number of troops and soldiers were deployed a week ago.

Thailand's May military coup was the latest convulsion in a decade-long conflict between the Bangkok-based royalist establishment and the rural-based supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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Yingluck was prime minister until May 7, when a court found her guilty of abuse of power and she stepped down.

The army toppled the remnants of her government on May 22, saying it needed to restore order after six months of sometimes violent anti-government protests that had brought the economy to the brink of recession.

Reuters