IMF preparations reach dramatic proportions

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Hospitals with double their usual emergency staff, absolute compliance with police orders even if they infringe civil rights, the army called in to help the police, and the German police available as further back-up. It may sound suspiciously like preparations for a civil war or martial law, but these are in fact some of the actual and rumoured preparations for the IMF/World Bank meeting to be held in Prague in September. Nick Carey has this report:

There has been much in the press lately on the upcoming IMF/World Bank meeting. An estimated 20,000 anti-globalisation protestors could descend on Prague this September, along with the thousands of delegates who will attend the meeting. Interior Minister Stanislav Gross has complained that the police have not received enough funds to cover the event, and there are fears that if trouble breaks out, the long arm of the law will be a little too short.

There seems to be some confusion within the Interior Ministry on how the police will deal with the general public during the meeting. The following information has recently appeared on the official Interior Ministry website:

"Respect police orders! During the IMF meeting, respect all police orders, even if they affect your rights. Obey all orders without question. Even if you have good cause, the police will not be able to help you."

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, however, said recently that the police will try to help the public and deal with them as best as possible. No-one seems sure which version to believe.

Just how far stretched police resources will be is unclear, but according to unconfirmed reports, the army will be drafted in to replace the police in outlying regions of the Czech Republic, in order to boost the numbers of officers available in the capital, and that the German police will be on call in case of trouble, as no-one knows just how many demonstrators may hit the streets of Prague, and whether the Czech police will be able to cope. There are even rumours that the police have admitted that it will be almost impossible to protect Prague's metro system from terrorist attacks. These reports remain unconfirmed, and it is expected that the government will endeavour prior to September to reassure public fears of violence and civil disorder.

The health care services in Prague are definitely taking extreme measures in preparation for the IMF/World Bank meeting. All holidays have been cancelled in the city's health care facilities for September, and emergency rooms will have double the number of staff available, in order to deal with large numbers of injured demonstrators. All patients with drug prescriptions have been advised to stock up in advance, because their drugs may not be available in September, and doctors will only handle acute cases.

Just how well-prepared Prague is the demonstrations expected in September awaits to be seen, but as the meetings are only two months away, time is definitely of the essence.