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Government declares emergency, bans rallies as protests swell

Government declares emergency, bans rallies as protests swell

BANGKOK: The Thai government has declared a state of emergency banning gatherings of more than four people and outlawing online posts deemed a threat to national security in a move to end simmering pro-democracy protests.

militarypolitics
By AFP

Thursday 15 October 2020, 08:44AM


Pro-democracy protesters march towards the Government House during an anti-government rally in Bangkok yesterday (Oct 14). Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

Pro-democracy protesters march towards the Government House during an anti-government rally in Bangkok yesterday (Oct 14). Photo: Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP

The order, issued today (Oct 15), was aimed at stamping out the “unconstitutional” protests and came after demonstrators demanding the prime minister’s resignation rallied outside his office in Bangkok overnight and scuffled with royalists opposed to the youth-led movement’s calls for reforms to the monarchy.

Student activists have staged huge demonstrations since July calling for PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who took power in a coup six years ago, to step down. 

The state of emergency allows for the seizure of “electronic communications equipment, data, and weapons suspected to cause the emergency situation”, a government spokesman said.

It was unclear if a protest scheduled for later today (Oct 15) at a major Bangkok intersection would go ahead, with police warning that demonstrators “can no longer gather… as planned or they will face arrest”.

Tensions flared yesterday as thousands of demonstrators rallied around Democracy Monument in Bangkok ahead of a scheduled afternoon drive-by of a royal motorcade carrying HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his family. 

While police had cordoned off most of the protesters away from the royal route, dozens were still present as the motorcade passed. 

Queen Suthida could be seen staring from a limousine window as protesters held up three-fingered salutes – a gesture of defiance the pro-democracy movement has borrowed from the popular ‘Hunger Games’ books and films.

Such overt challenges to the monarchy are unprecedented in Thailand, where the royal family’s influence permeates every aspect of society.

Those calls have prompted a backlash from Thailand’s staunchly pro-royalist establishment.

Wednesday’s drive-by was the first encounter the royal family has had with the protesters. 

‘Protesters ’must face legal procedures’

Several popular anti-government movements have arisen in the turbulent modern history of Thailand, which has endured long bouts of political unrest and more than a dozen successful military coups since 1932. 

The army has long positioned itself as the sole defender of the king.

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Activists have repeatedly said they wish only for the monarchy to adapt to modern times. 

Their demands include the abolition of a strict royal defamation law – which shields the royal family from criticism – and for the monarch to stay out of politics.

Since the protests started, dozens of activists have been arrested, charged with sedition and released on bail. 

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the premier had ordered police to press charges against “the protesters who obstructed the royal motorcade” on Wednesday. 

Charges will also be pursued against “those who had acted in a way that defames the monarchy”, he said in a statement. 

“They must face legal procedures without exception.”

After protesters marched to the Government House, they stayed through the night shouting for PM Prayut to “get out”, while some camped outside.

Organiser Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree reiterated the need for a rewrite of a 2017 military-scripted constitution. 

“The new constitution must bring Thailand to a democratic system with the monarchy institution truly governed under it,” he said. 

Wednesday’s demonstration was intended to commemorate the 47th anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that saw 77 people killed.

“This could be the last fight for Thailand’s democracy,” said 18-year-old Attaporn, who travelled from the Pichit province to join the rally.

“I have to do this if I want a better future.”

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wagsthedog | 16 October 2020 - 13:16:16

if only the thais in power could really see the people, do the right thing, the conditions people live in are 3rd, too busy getting money for themselves 

goldwing | 16 October 2020 - 07:27:19

I saw the dictator met with the Chines Foreign minister, no doubt to grovel and to show pinochio is as dictatorial as its Chinese masters. Thailand is little more than a vassal state of China, home to the Wuhan virus

Kurt | 15 October 2020 - 13:34:56

Pity that peaceful demonstrations for a Thai Democracy are now blocked.  Seems the rulers don't realize that with clearing the streets doesn't mean it is over now. Specially not seen the unlawful arrests. This gets a lot attention abroad. It will block potential foreign investing in a unstable country, and turn off coming of foreign tourists.

CaptainJack69 | 15 October 2020 - 11:06:46

Oh, and (keeping this vague) there have already for a long time been plenty of 'encounters' with Thai protesters outside Thailand in countries where they are able to exercise their basic human rights without fear.

CaptainJack69 | 15 October 2020 - 10:41:38

Yup. Citizens peacefully exercising their inalienable right to free speech constitutes an emergency. It's exactly that sort of domineering overreach that they're protesting in the first place.

Oh, and there's no COVID in Thailand (thanks to insane international travel restrictions).

Fascinated | 15 October 2020 - 09:28:58

All I saw on the news was peaceful protest and no 'obstruction', just 3 fingered salutes- this has just poured gasoline on the fire. Last attempt at repression from the dinosaurs quaking in their boots.

 

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