Thai protesters’ ultimatum set to expire as gov’t calls for dialog

Bangkok, Oct 24 (efe-epa).- While an ultimatum for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha set by Thailand’s student-led pro-democracy movement was set to expire Saturday night, the government asked that parliament take the lead on finding a way out of the situation.

The ultimatum ends at 10 pm (15:00 GMT), according to the organizers of pro-democracy groups who on Wednesday gave three days for the government to comply, after eight straight days of protests. They are expected to call a new protest if the leader does not step down.

Meanwhile, the Thai government said Saturday morning that it “has heard the concerns of the protesters.”

“Although the ongoing political situation comprises many opposing views among different groups, we should rather take this as an opportunity for Thais to consult each other on what is best for the nation,” government spokesman Anucha Burapacharisi said.

The spokesman, who recalled that the government had repealed the “severe” state of emergency on Oct. 22 (after a week in an effort to quell the protests), said that the government had agreed to hold an early extraordinary parliamentary session on Oct. 26 and assured that the elected MPs “represent all sectors of society.”

“The government’s gesture reflects its firm intention to open a dialog with all relevant political groups. We hope that the protesters will be ready to participate in the consultation, which is a democratic means in finding common grounds between opposing ideas,” he said.

The bicameral legislature, which will meet next week, consists of 500 deputies elected by popular vote in last year’s election and 250 senators handpicked by the military junta that ruled the country between 2014, when former general Prayut took power in a coup, and in 2019, when he revalidated his position in a controversial election.

The peaceful protest movement, led by university and even high school students, began in February and has gathered steam since July, despite attempts by the government to disable it by arresting its leaders.

The main demand of the student movement is the resignation of the government, headed by Prayut, 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 army in politics.

But the boldest, and most controversial, demand of students and their supporters is the reform of the monarchy, a taboo subject until recently because of the great respect and fear that the institution has inspired and the harsh lese majeste law, which provides for punishment of up to 15 years in prison for those who criticize the crown. EFE-EPA


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