Thousands protest in Bangkok defying govt ban

Young Thais have had it up to here.

Belmont Lay | October 15, 2020, 11:10 PM

Thousands of Thai protesters demonstrated in Bangkok on Oct. 15, 2020.

Those gathered defied a ban to end three months of anti-government action aimed at King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader.

The protesters spilled across the Ratchaprasong Intersection in one of Bangkok’s busiest commercial districts, despite police appeals to disperse.

The area was where supporters and opponents of the Thai establishment clashed in 2010, which led to bloodshed.

Protesters also filled the walkways of the nearby shopping complex.

They held up the three-finger salute adopted as a symbol of opposition after Prayuth’s 2014 coup.

This latest protest movement aims to remove Prayuth, saying he manipulated an election in 2019 to keep hold of power.

Prayuth said the election was fair.

Thais protesting for 3 months now

Three months of protests have been largely peaceful.

But in one incident, police pushed jeering protesters away from a motorcade carrying Queen Suthida on Oct. 14.

The march was attended by tens of thousands of people.

Overnight, the government banned political gatherings of five or more people.

The publication of news and online information that could threaten national security was also banned.

"The measures were necessary to ensure peace and order and to prevent further incidents after protesters affected the royal motorcade and violated the monarchy with provocative language," government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said in a statement.

Other reasons for the emergency measures were damage to the economy from protests and the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Only one locally transmitted case has been reported in more than four months.

Young people protesting

The protests have largely been driven by students and young people.

Pictures on social media showed student leader Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul being taken away in a wheelchair as she gave the three-finger salute of pro-democracy campaigners.

Those marching on the streets also want a new constitution and have called for a reduction in the powers of the king.

They want his role to be clearly subject to the constitution and they seek the reversal of orders that gave him control of the palace fortune and some army units.

Criticism of the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under lese majeste laws.

However, Prayuth said earlier this year the king had asked that they not be enforced for now.

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