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Activists dispersed, protest leaders arrested, as State of Emergency declared in Bangkok

Maya Taylor

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Protest leaders Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok - PHOTO: Nation Thailand

“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order.”

This was how state television announced the imposition of a State of Emergency in the capital in the early hours of this morning, effectively ending a political rally at Government House that had been set to continue “indefinitely”, according to protest leaders. Bangkok’s emergency decree means large gatherings (in this case, more than 5 people) are banned, and officials can prevent people from entering “any area” they decide is off-limits. It’s understood that around 20 activists have been arrested, including 4 prominent protest leaders.

The Bangkok Post reports that the State of Emergency also prohibits the, “publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information. Furthermore, information that might create a misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”

While Thailand’s ongoing political unrest does not make headline news around the world most days, this latest development has been picked up by the BBC and NY Times.

Below is a rough timeline of how events unfolded:

4am: A State of Emergency is imposed on the capital, with the government accusing the protest movement of “causing public disorder and threatening the security of the state and the public”. They also claim protesters disrupted the Royal motorcade that passed along part of the protest route yesterday late afternoon.

4.30am: Riot police move in and take over the rally area at Government House, with trucks carrying soldiers seen entering the grounds. Protest leaders Arnon Nampa, Prasit Karutarote, Parit Chiwarak and Panupong Jadnok are arrested.

5.30am: Protesters are forced to disperse, with many trying to resist and using rubbish bins and rubbish bin lids as shields, but they are overwhelmed by riot police. As daylight breaks, the surrounding streets are filled with 100s of police officers and workers have begun cleaning the area.

6.30am: Protesters can be seen helping each other find somewhere to rest. Many have travelled from other provinces, most likely assuming they would be camping out at Government House.

Some commentators have noted that the State of Emergency and subsequent events all unfolded before sunrise. Protest leader Arnon Nampa has previously tried to reassure activists that by law, the authorities can only break up a protest during daylight hours.

Around 10,000 protesters took part in yesterday’s demonstration. Since July, anti-government activists all over the country have been calling for the resignation of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, followed by the dissolution of parliament, fresh elections and a re-write of the constitution. As the protests have grown, so have the demands, with a 10-point manifesto issued by activists also calling for reform of the country’s monarchy, normally a totally taboo subject. Thailand’s extremely strict lèse-majesté law prohibits any criticism or defamation of the Monarchy.

What happens next remains to be seen. Early news reports say that, despite the introduction of the emergency decree and the arrest of their leaders, the protesters have vowed to fight on. Civil unrest and political protests are not new to Thailand. What makes this situation different is that it is very “grass roots’ based with a younger breed of protesters and students leading the way, with opposition MPs, in the past taking the front line, standing by. The demands to reform the country’s monarchy, previously a taboo topic for polite discussion, and rarely voiced publicly, are also defining this round of protests.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post | Chiang Rai Times | Prachathai English

 

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      Suchart

      Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 10:59 pm

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