Thai protesters gather in Bangkok for 5th day in defiance of ban

  • The movement, which is calling for the prime minister’s resignation, a more democratic constitution and a reformed monarchy, began in March
  • On Sunday, rallies were called in at least a dozen provinces, including Chiang Mai, a popular tourist destination in northern Thailand

BANGKOK: Protesters returned to the streets of Bangkok for the fifth straight day in coordinated demonstrations on Sunday (Oct 18) to continue their call for an end to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government.

Despite an emergency decree banning public gatherings, the rallies started at 4pm local time at the Victory Monument, Asoke and Tha Phra MRT station in the capital.

Demonstrators hold posters of protest leaders who have been arrested during an anti-government protest, in Bangkok, Thailand October 18, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Protest organisers had called on Sunday morning for demonstrators to be ready at any BTS skytrain station near their house by 3pm local time but did not disclose further details about the gathering sites, to avoid blockades by the authorities.

At about 2.30pm, authorities announced temporary closure of several BTS skytrain and MRT underground stations, as well as walkways between buildings and stations in the affected areas.

Protesters shouted phrases like “reform the monarchy” and “Prayut, get out”. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Around 4pm, several hundreds of protesters gathered in the rain at Victory Monument, the primary protest site, carrying umbrellas and wearing rain jackets. Traffic around the area also slowed down as more people joined the rally.

Protesters at the Victory Monument on Oct 18, 2020. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Despite lacking proper sound system and mobile stages, protesters shouted short phrases like “reform the monarchy” and “Prayut, get out”. They were also seen trying to stop the police from putting up barricades at the site.

Driven by a coalition of youth groups from across Thailand, the movement has recently become somewhat leaderless as most of the protest leaders have been apprehended by police.

Bangkok has been under a state of emergency since 4am on Tuesday, yet protesters in Bangkok have defied the government’s orders, which prohibit any action that would instigate unrest.

A view of the Victory Moment at night on Oct 18. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Publication of news and electronic information with messages that could instill fear among the public, intentionally distort facts, or cause misunderstanding that would affect national security, or peace and order is also forbidden. 

The order was issued by the prime minister to control anti-government protesters.

Thai protesters build a makeshift wall using umbrellas on Oct 18. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
Volunteer guards at Victory Monument sit on the road behind barricades, ready for any police clearance operations. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

According to police, checking in at protest sites on social media or sharing selfies while in the areas could result in legal action.

“Police enforcement this time around is in compliance with laws, international standards, and human rights, in order to maintain peace and order for the general public,” said police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen in a press conference on Sunday.

On Saturday, the authorities shut down much of the city’s transport system in a bid to thwart protesters from gathering. 

However, mass crowds managed to hold demonstrations for several hours in three different areas, including the Lat Phrao intersection, Udomsuk and Wongwian Yai. Police did not intervene on Saturday and the protesters dispersed after several hours.

With many of the key leaders detained, demonstrators on Saturday took turns giving short speeches. 

Besides Bangkok, more rallies have also been held in different provinces. 

Police have dispersed their protests twice, first on Thursday and later on Friday at the Pathumwan intersection in Bangkok’s business district.

By : Pichayada Promchertchoo – CNA

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