(Update: changes headline, 1st par, adds byline, adds details and quotes, updates arrest figures)
By Noel Caballero
Bangkok, Oct 17 (efe-epa).- Thousands of demonstrators demanding democratic reforms in Thailand gathered in different parts of Bangkok on Saturday.
Activists again outwitted authorities who closed the capital’s public transport network in a bid to prevent mass protests that took place on a fourth consecutive day despite a ban.
Police ordered the suspension of all BTS and MRT services in the city and also closed several roads and the Airport Rail Link line.
Young demonstrators organized themselves on social media to avoid police blockades and held rallies in several locations throughout the capital, particularly Samyam, Lat Phrao, Udomsuk and Wongwian Yai.
But there were also small pockets throughout the city that defied the ban on more than four people gathering, a rule imposed on Thursday under the government’s state of emergency.
Student activists chanted anti-government slogans and held up three-fingered salutes, which has become a symbol of the protest movement.
Police have arrested more than 60 protesters since Tuesday, including some of the main leaders of the campaign.
“We are all leaders. Whoever wants to speak, let them do so. Whoever wants to join, let them do so (…) They can arrest 10 or 100,000, more people will join,” protest group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration said on social media.
Peaceful demonstrations were also reported in other provinces including Nonthaburi north of Bangkok and Khon Kaen in the east.
Organizers called for crowds to disperse as night fell to avoid a repeat of Friday when police used water cannons on protestors.
“Rest and in the coming days let’s unite and fight together,” said the group Free Youth.
Police justified Friday’s harsh response saying demonstrators had violated the emergency decree and damaged public property.
A spokesman said at a press conference that authorities had acted according to international standards and respected human rights standards.
The police repression has been strongly criticized by human rights groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
“By sending in the police to violently disperse peaceful protesters, Thailand’s government is embarking on a wider crackdown to end the students’ protests,” said Brad Adams, HRW Asia director.
“Invoking the emergency decree gives the police the green light to commit rights abuses with impunity.”
The government declared a state of emergency in the early hours of Thursday, a day after a massive crowd of demonstrators carried out an unprecedented act of rebellion by flanking the royal motorcade in which Queen Suthida and Crown Prince Dipangkorn were traveling.
This decree aims to stifle the anti-government movement and prevent the publication of news on the subject.