Conflicts & War

Thai govt ends emergency decree following week of defiant protests

Bangkok, Oct 22 (efe-epa).- Thailand ended Thursday the emergency decree it imposed last week to outlaw demonstrations demanding democratic reforms, as organizers began the first of a three-day truce after nine days of almost constant protests.

The decree, imposed Oct. 15, and which prohibited political meetings of more than four people among others measures, was lifted at noon local time (5 am GMT), according to the royal Thai gazette.

“At present, the serious events that led to the declaration of the severe emergency decree, have (improved) in the way that government officials and agencies can implement measures in compliance with ordinary laws…” the statement read. “The prime minister (…) has issued the announcement (…) to revoke the severe emergency decree in Bangkok implemented since Oct. 15.”

Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha announced the measure Wednesday in a televised message on the condition that no violent incidents were recorded during the day’s demonstration.

Thousands of protesters peacefully marched toward the Government House as Prayut was delivering his speech and gave authorities a large letter of resignation drafted symbolically with a space for the prime minister’s signature.

The movement, led mostly by young students, gave Prayut – a coup maker who grabbed power in 2014 and was elected prime minister in 2019 elections deemed free but unfair – three days to tender his resignation before resuming protests. These have gained momentum since July, growing in strength, numbers and demands.

Other than Prayut’s resignation, protesters are demanding that a new constitution be created. The current one was drafted by Prayut’s military government in 2016, approved following a referendum during which it was illegal to campaign against the charter and ratified in 2017 after King Vajiralongkorn changed five key articles months after the vote.

Protesters also want the army’s influence in politics to be reduced. But the boldest and most controversial demand is that of monarchical reform, a taboo subject until recent months because of the harsh lese-majeste laws in the country – which punish insults to the crown with up to 15 years in prison per count.

King Vajiralongkorn, who spends most of his time in Germany appears to lack the charisma and respect his father King Bhumibol commanded, and his time abroad and lavish lifestyle drew criticism during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is severely affecting Thailand’s economy.

Thailand recently blocked a initiative calling for the German government to declare the king a persona non grata, a petition which garnered more than 120,000 signatories within two days of its publication last week before it was censored in the country. EFE-EPA


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