Asia World

Fri 16 October 2020:

Thousands of protesters in Thailand’s capital hit the streets for a second night on Thursday, defying a government emergency decree aimed at quelling pro-democracy demonstrations that have gripped the country for more than three months.

As they dispersed at 10pm (15:00 GMT), protesters pledged to return to the same place every day with another rally planned on Friday.

The growing demonstrations have targeted King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup, in the biggest challenge for years to an establishment long dominated by the army and palace.

“Like dogs cornered, we are fighting till our deaths,” Panupong ‘Mike Rayong’ Jadnok, one the high-profile protest leaders who remains free, told the crowd. “We won’t fall back. We won’t run away. We won’t go anywhere.”

Authorities warned through a loudspeaker that demonstrators were violating the emergency decree, were being photographed and could be prosecuted and arrested. But thousands of people congregated at the Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok’s commercial center, chanting, jeering at police, and waving lights from their cell phones.

The decree, which came into effect in the capital Bangkok at 4 a.m. local time on Thursday, was enforced after protesters marched en mass from the city’s Democracy Monument and broke through a police barricade to camp outside Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s offices late Wednesday. Demonstrators were calling for Prayut’s resignation and reform of the monarchy.

The King, who spends much of his time overseas, returned to Thailand this week for a host of royal duties, including marking the memorial day of his father, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
On Thursday morning, protest group Free Youth called on people to defy the gathering ban and join an afternoon demonstration in Bangkok, saying in a statement on Facebook that, “high school and university students, workers and general people have assembled peacefully and have not started any violence.”
“But it is clear now the government has intentionally used the monarchy as a tool to get rid of those who are calling out for their better future, the future with equality and no more disparity,” the group said.

The protesters’ main demands:

  • Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down
  • Parliament dissolved and new elections held
  • The constitution, drafted by the military, to be rewritten
  • An end to the intimidation of dissidents
  • Reform of the monarchy

A group of Southeast Asian lawmakers criticised the decree, and called for it be rescinded.

“What’s happening now in Thailand is an outright blatant abuse of emergency powers to crack down on fundamental freedoms and shield those in power from any form of legitimate criticisms,” said Charles Santiago, Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a Malaysian member of parliament.

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