Conflicts & War

New pro-democracy rally called in Bangkok as PM issues warning

Bangkok, Oct 16 (efe-epa).- New pro-democracy protests were scheduled Friday in central Bangkok to demand the release of detained activists and despite an emergency decree imposed a day earlier, as the prime minister appeared to warn protesters not to break the law.

The rally is scheduled for 5 pm (10 am GMT) at Ratchaprasong intersection, where thousands peacefully assembled Thursday despite the ban on political gatherings of more than four people. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-oha spoke Friday and seemed to warn protesters not to tempt the “grim reaper.”

“Remember, don’t be reckless because everyone can die today or tomorrow, as the (Buddhist) prayer says. Don’t be careless, everyone can die any time of illness or whatever… Do not challenge the Grim Reaper,” Prayut said during a press conference.

Police said attendees risk arrest for violating the emergency decree, imposed after a clash between protesters and a royal convoy during a Wednesday rally.

Authorities have detained 51 demonstrators since Tuesday, including four student-led protest leaders, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.

Among those arrested are political activists Ekkachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun Paothon, who are accused of “an act of violence against the queen or her freedom,” a crime that carries a penalty between 16 years and life imprisonment according to the Thai lawyers’ group.

“It is really telling that, at this point in time, I am going to lose my freedom. I am going to lose my free will to live,” Bunkueanun said Friday morning as he reported to the police. “While I still breathe I will be hoping for that my freedom will be returning for myself and that my innocence will be proven (sic).”

Both participated Wednesday in a march that surrounded the Government House and at one point surrounded the motorcade where Queen Suthida and Crown Prince Dipangkorn were traveling.

This was an iconic moment where protesters peacefully challenged the Thai monarchy with shouts and gestures, an institution protected by law from any criticism and a subject considered taboo for decades.

The protests, organized by student groups, began in July and have increased in attendance and demands, including the Government’s resignation, a new Constitution – the current one was drafted by the old military junta – and curbs on the army and monarchy’s political influence.

King Vajiralongkorn, who spends most of his time in Germany, arrived in Thailand last weekend with the queen and royal concubine to participate in religious ceremonies marking the anniversary of the death of his father, King Bhumibol.

The king traveled to the northeastern province of Sakon Nakhon last night, where he will stay at Phu Phan Ratchaniwet Palace, after a ceremony where the queen will award 17 university degrees. EFE-EPA


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