Published: Sun, October 18, 2020

Thousands defy ban in Thailand protests

Thousands defy ban in Thailand protests

Authorities in Bangkok have shut down mass transit systems and set up roadblocks as Thailand's capital braced for a fourth straight day of determined anti-government protests.

Over the last two days, the Thai police have resorted to using violence to suppress demonstrators for the first time since the protests began earlier this year, as the government intensifies its crackdown on the youth-led pro-democracy and anti-monarchy movement.

A few metres away, hundreds of activists blocked the road behind a makeshift barrier, calling for the riot police to "get out" and singing the Thai national anthem. They instead held protests in smaller groups at multiple locations across the city while communicating with each other via social media.

The organizers then issued a fresh advisory for followers to gather at three stations outside the city's central area, where access was easier. The more of us are arrested, the more we need to come out. "How could they do this to us?" said a 23-year-old undergraduate who wanted to be known as Por. By the evening, police had not disturbed them, even when some groups took to marching in the street.

Protesters have denounced the emergency measures and the arrest of some 40 protesters in the past week and are planning another demonstration for today.

Police later said the dye would mark protesters for future legal action.

No major injuries were reported from that confrontation. It was the first time the authorities have employed such forceful tactics against the student-led protests.

A staff member at the Asok BTS Skytrain station gestures to signify the closure of the station ahead of an anti-government rally in Bangkok on Saturday.

Protesters hold up three fingers during anti Government demonstrations in Bangkok Thailand
Thai protesters in Bangkok have stood in defiance of the the ban and held up the three-finger salute

"I'm ready to fight", said 20-year-old Tortor, carrying a backpack stuffed with a gas mask.

Protective gear such as goggles was distributed Saturday at some venues. "It's a defeat for all Thais", government spokesman Anucha Burapanchaisri said in a statement. Around 50 protestors, including a number of leaders, have been arrested in the past week alone.

Pro-democracy protesters gather during the protest in Bangkok, Thailand, 17 October 2020.

Protesters say Prayuth engineered last year's election to keep the power he seized in a 2014 coup - an accusation he denies.

The protest movement was launched in March by university students and its original core demands were new elections, changes in the constitution to make it more democratic, and an end to intimidation of activists. Breaking a long-standing taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy. The institution maintains divine-like status among Thailand's elite, and it is protected by strict "lese majeste" laws that impose prison sentences on anyone convicted of insulting the monarchy. He claimed this was because "certain groups of perpetrators meant to instigate an untoward incident and movement in the Bangkok area by way of various methods and via different channels, including causing obstruction to the royal motorcade".

The decree was made in response to a protest in inner Bangkok on Wednesday which appeared to slow a motorcade bearing Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti.

Two other activists were arrested on Friday under a rarely used law banning "violence against the queen" after they joined a group Wednesday that surrounded a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida, flashing a pro-democracy salute as the auto drove by.

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