Thai PM calls for tougher crackdown on protests after clashes

Clay Curtis
October 18, 2020

The call by the protesters for reform of the monarchy has significantly raised the political temperature in Thailand, angering many older conservative Thais for whom any critical discussion of the royal family is tantamount to treason.

The decree bans gatherings of more than four people and the publication of news or online messages deemed to harm national security, stoke fear, or intentionally distort information.

Gen Prayut called the cabinet meeting at 10am on Friday to discuss the emergency decree he invoked in Bangkok about 4am on Thursday following street protests in the capital.

Two other activists were arrested on Friday under a rarely used law banning "violence against the queen" after they joined a group Wednesday that surrounded a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida, flashing a pro-democracy salute as the vehicle drove by. Seven people were arrested, police said.

Al Jazeera's Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said organisers called on protesters to gather at three different locations in the city.

Tens of thousands of Thai pro-democracy protesters rallied across Bangkok Saturday, defying an emergency decree banning gatherings for a third consecutive day to demand the resignation of the prime minister and reform of the powerful monarchy. In a press conference Friday, he said his government hoped to revoke the state of emergency before its normal 30-day duration "if the situation improves quickly", DW reported.

Both men, one of whom has been released on bail, could face life in prison if convicted.

Human rights groups condemned the government measures.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters news agency that "there is no win or loss for any side, it's all [causing] damage to the country".

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Unlike Friday's protests, when police used water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters that included children, Saturday's demonstrations were peaceful.

Prior to the motorcade incident, the wave of antigovernment protests the country has witnessed for around the past three months has been largely peaceful.

Vowing to stay on, the premier warned protesters on Friday "not to violate the law" and police shut down the planned rally site - but activists changed location to the shopping mall district of Pathumwan.

On Thursday, it ordered a ban on protests which have become the biggest challenge in years to the government and have brought unprecedented criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Almost a thousand protesters rallied in the western Wongwian Yai district chanting: "Long live the people, down with dictatorship!"

Prayuth first took power as army chief in a 2014 coup. His comments were broadcast on state television on Friday as police clashed with protesters in Bangkok. Breaking a longstanding taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy.

Opposition parties issued a joint statement in the morning condemning the excessive use of force in dispersing protestors at Patumwan Intersection.

Amid the protests, Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong tweeted a picture of himself giving the three-finger salute of Thai campaigners with the hastag #StandWithThailand.

From the dispersal of protesters on the evening of October 16, we have learned that the government and military have established themselves as the enemy of the people.

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