UPDATE: Bangkok under a State of Emergency, protests ‘cleared’, 20+ arrested,

PHUOTO: Dawn breaks in Bangkok, under a State of Emergency - Thai PBS World

Bangkok awakes to a State of Emergency, imposed at 4am to quell the growing support of the latest protest movement. The Thai government has used its emergency decree powers to impose a “State of Emergency” in Bangkok, and placed a ban on gatherings of any more than 5 people. The tough new security laws, put in place early this morning, are the latest effort of the government and police to short circuit the growing street protest movement that are calling for a change in government, the stepping down of the prime minister, parliamentary and constitutional reform.

The early morning announcement prompted 100s of crowd-control police and military squads in riot gear to move from Phitsanulok Road to the Nang Loeng Intersection near Government House around 4.40am, pushing the protesters out of the area. As police moved in to clear the protest ‘camp’ outside Government House. By 6am at least 7 people were arrested, as reported in Prachatai.

The announcement specifically mentions the protest group “Khana Ratsadorn” in the declaration. Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan has been designated to oversee the current the state of emergency in the capital.

The announcement was made after protesters, pushing their way through barricades as they made their way to Government House yesterday afternoon, set up camp last night announcing that they would stay there until their demands were met.

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The State of Emergency effectively ends the street protests, the latest movement which started back in August with a gathering of around 10,000, unveiling a 10-point ‘manifesto’ that included, controversially, the reform of the country’s revered monarchy.

The announcement was accompanied by a document laying out measures taking affect from 4am this morning to ban any large gatherings and empowering police and officials to “ban people from entering any area”.

The latest decree also bans the publication of news or online messaging that “could harm national security” The statement said that the government also acted after demonstrators “obstructed a royal motorcade”.

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

“Publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”

Police in riot gear then moved in on the protesters, advancing behind shields. By this stage thousands of the earlier rally crowds had already dispersed. Protesters did their best to resist arrest and used trash cans and some of the barricades that had cordoned off the area. But they were outnumbered.

From 2pm yesterday some 3,000 people had gathered at Democracy Monument to begin their march to Government House. It is estimated that the crowd grew to 10,000 at its peak. There are conflicting and widely variable crowd estimates this morning. Earlier Anon Nampa had announced to the crowd that, by law, government could only break up the protest during the day, and they must have a warrant. The officials had other ideas.

Yesterday’s stand off between protesters, ‘royal supporters’, mostly trucked in from outside Bangkok, and security officials, was complicated by HM the King’s motorcade which was scheduled to pass the protest area to attend a royal ceremony.

About 15,000 police were on site yesterday to patrol and oversee the protest area near Democracy Monument. Public buses were parked strategically to block the rally’s path to Government House.

The area outside Government House has now been cleared and city workers moved in to remove any remnants of yesterday, and early this morning’s, protest activities. A human rights group has named 4 of the people arrested as Parit Chiwarak, Anon Nampa, Phanuphong Jadnok and Prasit Utharoj.

Panussaya Sitthijirawattanakul, a critic of the monarchy and one of the protest organisers, was also arrested at a Bangkok hotel just after hosting a Facebook, livestream, “calling on people to join a rally planned for Rathchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok’s central shopping district at 4pm this afternoon.

(At the time of publication the full tally of people arrested is not confirmed. Some news sources are reporting up to 20 people have been arrested with “many others” being carted away in police security vans. We will keep you up to date on the latest in this developing story)

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