Pro-democracy groups call for fresh rallies in Bangkok
Bangkok, Oct 18 (efe-epa).- Pro-democracy student activists in Bangkok announced fresh protests on Sunday for the fifth day in a row.
Organizers called on demonstrators to be ready at 3 pm local time (8 am GMT) at the city’s BTS elevated railway stations.
Police responded by ordering the closure of up to 15 stations from the capitals’ transport network under a state of emergency imposed by the government on Thursday.
Authorities ordered the closure of almost the entire public transport system in the city on Saturday in an unsuccessful bid to prevent another day of peaceful protests calling for democratic reforms.
Officials justified the closures on Sunday “to maintain the security” of the state and its people in the face of “disruption” caused by the rallies.
The transport suspension did not prevent 10,000s of people, mostly young activists, from flooding several areas of the capital on Saturday coordinated through social media.
Political gatherings of more than four people have been banned under the state of emergency and the publication of photographs or statements about the location of protests is also prohibited, punishable by two years imprisonment or fines of up to $1,280.
Authorities have arrested more than 70 protesters since Tuesday, including almost all the main leaders of the pro-democracy student movement and at least six participants in marches on Saturday.
Demonstrators have not been deterred by harsh police repression which saw riot officers charge into an unarmed, peaceful crowd and use water cannons against thousands of people in downtown Bangkok on Thursday.
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.
The demand of the students’ movement, which kicked off on 8 July and has gained strength over time, is the resignation of the government headed by Prayut Chan-ocha, a former general who came to power through a military coup.
Protesters have also called for a new constitution to replace the current drafted by the military junta which was in power between 2014 and 2019.
They also seek to reduce military influence in politics.
The most controversial demand is for monarchical reforms, a taboo subject due to Thailand’s strict lese majeste laws, which punish criticism of the crown with up to 15 years in prison. EFE-EPA