Thailand to hold parliamentary session on student protests

Update 1: Updates text, headline

Bangkok, Oct 20 (EFE).- Thailand’s government announced Tuesday it will convene a parliamentary session to discuss student protests taking place daily in Bangkok and other cities despite the “severe” state of emergency decreed last week to prevent them.

Government Spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri, told EFE that the Council of Ministers had approved the opening of the extraordinary session, but a date has not yet been set because it is necessary to complete the process of obtaining the king’s signature.

For her part, the Executive Vice-spokesperson, Ratchada Thanadirek, indicated on her Twitter account that it is expected to take place on Oct. 26 and Oct. 27.

Ratchada also said the government has invoked Article 165 of the Constitution, which provides for this type of session “in the event that there are important problems for the State administration” so that the executive can hear the opinions of the representatives of the two houses of parliament.

The pro-democracy movement in Thailand had issued an ultimatum for Tuesday evening for the government to release all detained protesters and annul the “severe” emergency decree approved Thursday to quell the ongoing street protests.

“Before 6 pm, the government must free all our friends! The emergency decree must be revoked! If the government fails to accept these demands, there will be no way to stop the people’s movement,” Free Youth, one of the most active organizers, said on social media.

Protesters at 6 pm gathered at skytrain stations as the national anthem played and showed their trademark three-finger salute, a symbol of defiance borrowed from the dystopian novels “The Hunger Games” before saying there would be no further events for the day.

The Thammasat UFTD platform also demanded the release of the protesters and revocation of the emergency decree and warned that they have “a surprise” for the government if it does not meet the deadline Tuesday.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said Monday that 86 activists had been arrested from Oct. 13 to Sunday for their roles in the protests, two of them minors.

Most have already been released on bail, including 19 Monday night from Bangkok’s Klong Prem Prison, although at least a dozen still remain in pre-trial detention.

The main demand of the student movement, which began in February and has been gaining momentum since July, is the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, the general who led the 2014 military coup and who retained his post in 2019 through controversial elections.

In addition, they also demand the dissolution of parliament and a new constitution, since the current one was drawn up by the defunct military junta (2014-2019), and to reduce the influence of the army in politics.

But the boldest and most controversial demand from students and their supporters is the reform of the monarchy, a taboo subject until recently due to the great respect that the institution has inspired and the harsh lese majeste law, which punishes those who criticize the crown with up to 15 years in prison.

The Thai government declared a “severe” state of emergency last Thursday after a massive peaceful protest gathered a day earlier, through which a convoy carrying Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn drove as protesters held up the three-finger gesture of rebellion – unprecedented in the nation.

The emergency order, in force until Nov. 13, aims to quell the student-led anti-government movement and prevent the publication of news that “affects national security.”

According to this decree, political gatherings of five or more people are prohibited and the authorities can detain anyone who violates it for up to 30 days without charge, among other measures.

Since last Wednesday, massive demonstrations have gathered daily, with an overwhelming attendance of young students in defiance of the order to demand democratic reforms in the country.

The demonstrations have proceeded peacefully, except on Friday when police used water cannon and deployed riot police to disperse the young, unarmed crowd – most still in school uniforms – by force. EFE


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