BANGKOK (THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Authorities have employed different measures to block supporters of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra from appearing at the Supreme Court on Friday (Aug 25) to hear the reading of the verdict in the negligence case against her, a key red-shirt leader said on Tuesday.
Ms Thida Thavornseth, a leading opposition figure and former chairman of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said that strict scrutiny and restrictions were being applied to Yingluck's supporters "all the way" - when they are at home, on the road to Bangkok and even after arriving at the court.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday asked members of the public if they would allow unrest to occur after the verdicts on Friday, which will be read in separate cases against Yingluck and officials from her government.
"If the Thai people all over the country find it acceptable for unrest to happen again, I will not stand in the way," he said. Mr Prayut added that it would be the responsibility of all people, including members of the media, to set the future course for Thailand and to make sure that the country moved forward peacefully.
The Prime Minister was responding to a reporter's question whether his government had planned any measures "in case of an emergency" after the court's verdict. Mr Prayut was speaking at the Suranaree University of Technology in Nakhon Ratchasima after chairing a mobile Cabinet meeting.
Ms Thida on Tuesday claimed officials from the defence and interior ministries had been deployed to suppress red-shirt activists in the provinces from travelling to the Supreme Court for the Yingluck case verdict.
"Activists literally in all areas are being visited and are receiving phone calls from authorities who ask them not to make any moves. People who wish to go to the court must travel on their own," she said. "But it doesn't end there. All the public transport - be it passenger vans or shuttle buses - have been made unavailable for people who want to rent them for trips to Chaeng Wattana (where the court is located)."
Although she said she thought people in the provinces would not travel to Bangkok until Wednesday or Thursday, Ms Thida added that she was confident there would be checkpoints conducting searches along the way as an attempt to stop people from travelling.
She added that she expected measures against Yingluck supporters outside the court as well, and what concerned her the most was the limited area at the court provided for red-shirt supporters.
"Only 1,500 square metres will be provided for the crowd. I'm not sure it will be sufficient. And if by accident the crowd oversteps the area into the street, will they get arrested?" Ms Thida asked.
She added that she expected at least 10,000 people to turn up, and such a large number could not be accommodated in the space provided. All the measures showed that the government was overreacting, which would ultimately raise the political temperature unnecessarily, the UDD leader warned.
People had been provoked and were tempted to show their support for Yingluck, especially when the government told them not to, Ms Thida said, adding that if the government thought that its treatment of Yingluck was proper, authorities should not be afraid of anything.
Other red-shirt leaders and Pheu Thai Party politicians in the Northeast said on Tuesday that they would travel to Bangkok individually to offer moral support to Yingluck. However, they denied organising free trips to the capital for the purpose.
Former Pheu Thai MP Thanik Maseepitak said there were many Yingluck sympathisers, although he did not think many people would travel all the way to Bangkok. He claimed that military officers had recently visited "target villages" in the Northeast and told local community leaders to make sure residents did not travel to Bangkok at this time.
In response to concerns about possible violence, the politician said such incidents could happen after the reading of the verdict but he did not think it would be instigated by red-shirt supporters.
"A third party may start violence and blame it on the red shirts. The hardcore red shirts now have no potential to carry out violence," he said.
Meanwhile, security checkpoints manned by police and military officers as well as administrative officials are being set up starting on Wednesday on the Friendship Highway in Northeastern provinces.
A security source in Khon Kaen said that given recent "conversations" with red-shirt leaders in the Northeast, authorities' latest estimate put the number of Yingluck supporters who would arrive at the court on Friday at a little more than 1,000.
In a related development, Supreme Court officials said on Tuesday that all communication devices would be banned in the courtroom during Friday's reading of the verdict.
Yingluck will attend the court's verdict reading on Friday, her lawyer Norrawit Larlaeng said. "She is well prepared, whatever the verdict will be," he said, adding that her legal team has also been ready for "every possibility".
The former prime minister has been in good spirits due to the strong moral support from many people, the lawyer said.