Thai gov’t announces ‘serious’ state of emergency to quash protests
Bangkok, Oct 15 (efe-epa).- Thailand’s government announced a “serious” state of emergency in the early hours of Thursday during another large protest in the historic center of Bangkok, which was dispersed by riot police and its leaders arrested.
The decree, announced on state television, bans gatherings of more than four people from 4 am Thursday, and prohibits publishing and broadcasting of news that may affect national security or peace and order.
It said that “many groups of people have invited and held unlawful public gatherings in Bangkok” and that urgent measures were needed to maintain peace and order.
The decree also said there had been actions affecting the royal procession.
Thousands of protesters had marched to gather near Government House Wednesday afternoon to continue to call for reform of the government and to limit the powers of the powerful monarchy – the latter a demand unprecedented in modern history.
The protest, which coincided with the anniversary of the student revolution in 1973, saw a few scuffles between opposing protest groups, but was mostly peaceful.
Queen Suthida’s motorcade, which drove through the crowd of protesters, was met with shouting and three-finger salutes.
After the announcement of the emergency decree, riot police began to disperse protesters after 4 am.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported at 5 am that protesters including Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panupong Jadnok had been arrested. A day earlier, 21 protesters had also been arrested while setting up for Wednesday’s demonstration.
In February, small student protests began after the Constitutional Court dissolved the popular Future Forward party. However, since July, after some restrictions to contain COVID-19 were lifted, they have gathered steam into large organized demonstrations of tens of thousands of people.
The main demand of the protesters is the resignation of the government, headed by the coup general Prayut Chan-ocha, and a new constitution, since the current one was drawn up by the old military junta (2014-2019), in addition to reducing the influence of the military in politics.
The most controversial demand is the reform of the monarchy, a taboo subject until recently due to the great respect that the institution has inspired and the strict lese majeste laws, which are punishable by up to 15 years in prison for those who criticize the crown.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who spends much of his time in Germany, arrived in the capital at the weekend to participate in religious ceremonies and the anniversary of the death of his father, the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Oct.13, 2016. EFE-EPA