Thailand’s government accused red-shirt protesters of plotting against the revered king, a charge they rejected as a pretext for cracking down. Protesters forced the train system to close Tuesday in an escalation of the weeks-long standoff.
The news raised concerns among protesters that the authorities are trying to recast their rallies as traitorous in order to justify a crackdown.
It also came amid growing frustration on the streets of Bangkok over aggressive actions by antigovernment red shirts, including impromptu roadblocks and the closure Tuesday of a light-rail system after protesters threatened to throw tires on the tracks. Daily rallies by anti-red groups attract thousands of flag-waving supporters.
An Army spokesman told reporters on Monday that an emergency committee chaired by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was investigating the alleged plot. Thai newspapers Tuesday reprinted an organizational chart that links protest leaders, opposition lawmakers, social activists, and media outlets. Mr. Abhisit was quoted as saying that “further action must be taken.”
Red-shirt protesters have ridiculed the claims and threatened to sue for defamation. “For now, we only want the dissolution of parliament,” says Jaran Ditapichai, one of the leaders. He said similar slurs had failed to stop the protest movement, now into its seventh week of nonstop rallies in the capital.
The accusation came on the same day that King Bhumibol Adulyadej made his first public speech in four months. A constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol has limited formal powers but retains great moral authority. Some Thais have called on him to adjudicate the current crisis, as he did after bloodshed in May 1992.