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PYEONGTAEK, South Korea — South Korean police will move thousands of riot-equipped officers to Pyeongtaek this weekend to block a rally by groups opposed to the planned expansion of Camp Humphreys, South Korean officials said Thursday.

As many as 5,000 protesters are expected to attempt a rally at 2 p.m. Sunday in Daechu-ri, a village that is part of a large tract of farmland on which Camp Humphreys is slated to expand, police said.

Korean National Police officials have banned Sunday’s protest and will deploy 10,000 or more officers to the area, they said Thursday. Police outlawed the rally because they believe it has high potential to turn violent, a South Korean government official told Stars and Stripes on Thursday.

Police already have blocked certain routes into the area in the wake of violent protests at and near Daechu-ri last month, although they say the activists have assured them the rally will be peaceful.

The protesters are members of a coalition of groups opposing not only the Camp Humphreys expansion project but also the U.S. military’s presence in South Korea.

On Monday, a senior South Korea government official warned that any person breaking the law in the course of protesting the Humphreys expansion project would face strict punishment.

“Illegal, violent protesters will be punished harshly following the law,” said Lee Yong-sup, minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs.

Beginning last year, expansion opponents have staged numerous protest rallies — some of them violent — in Daechu-ri and elsewhere near Camp Humphreys and in downtown Pyeongtaek and Seoul.

The demonstrations have focused mainly on a 2,328- acre expanse of farmland near Camp Humphreys that the South Korean government purchased last year for the post’s expansion.

On May 4, the controversy reached its most violent point thus far when South Korean authorities mounted a massive security operation in Daechu-ri and wrested a school compound from the control of anti-U.S. activists who’d turned it into a makeshift, barricaded headquarters.

That same day, South Korean officials declared the contested farmland a restricted-access military zone.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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