Despite the ban on gatherings, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Thailand again. They are calling for more democracy and a reform of the monarchy. The government is resisting it with might – and vehemently refuses to resign.
Thousands of people took to the streets again in the Thai capital, Bangkok. They are calling for new elections, a constitutional change and a reform of the monarchy. The government tried to stop the protests.
The police cordoned off streets and set up barricades at a central intersection where demonstrators wanted to gather as they did the day before. There were closings in local transport to prevent demonstrators from arriving. Police in riot gear were transferred to the area. Shopping centers in the otherwise overcrowded business district closed earlier. The protest movement announced that it would gather at another intersection.
Thailand’s Premier: "I will not go"
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha rejected the protesters’ calls for resignation. "I will not go," the 66-year-old told journalists. He didn’t do anything wrong. The head of government yesterday declared a state of emergency and a ban on gatherings, which around 10,000 people opposed.
According to the Thai human rights lawyers legal aid group, at least 51 people have been arrested since Tuesday in connection with the demonstrations. The heaviest sentences to date face two activists accused of endangering Queen Suthida. They face a life sentence.
The reason for the allegations against the two activists is an incident on Wednesday when a small group of people at the Prime Minister’s seat of government verbally attacked a column of the Queen and Prince Dipangkorn – physical violence was not visible on video recordings on social media. "We were not informed about the upcoming royal column from the police," said one of the accused on Friday. When they found out, he campaigned for the column to be allowed to pass.
Issue a ban on assembly
The state of emergency prohibits public gatherings of more than five people and the spreading of messages believed to be a threat to national security. It also gives the authorities far-reaching powers – for example, people can be locked up for long periods of time without charge.
The protest movement had formed in March. She accuses the prime minister and former military commander, who came to power in a military coup in 2014, of having unfairly regained control of last year’s elections. Accordingly, laws have been changed to favor a party closely related to the military.
High penalties for criticizing the Thai royal family
The protests took an unexpected turn when students rallied in August to criticize the monarchy and demand reform. The leaders of the protest movement reject allegations that they loyal to the king and want to abolish the monarchy. The Thai royal family has long been considered inviolable and a pillar of Thai identity. Lese majesty can be punished with up to 15 years imprisonment.