Unsurprisingly, Thailand’s PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is dismissing calls for his resignation as protests continue to escalate and protesters defy bans to rally in the streets of Bangkok. Rally organisers have already announced that they will be massing again today from 4pm, rumoured to be at numerous BTS stations around the central capital area.
Out of a list of 10 key demands, one of them calls for the stepping down of PM Prayut.
The PM declared a state of emergency for Bangkok in the early hours of Thursday morning this week in response to the growing rallies being held by students who are, above all, demanding his resignation and reforms to the country’s constitutional monarchy.
Yesterday morning, before a cabinet meeting which would go on to endorse a 1 month State of Emergency in Bangkok, the PM said that “certain groups of perpetrators intended to instigate an untoward incident and movement in the Bangkok area by way of various methods and via different channels” (whatever that means), “including causing obstruction to the royal motorcade”.
He said he had no plans to resign as he had done nothing wrong.
“The government hopes it can drop the state of emergency ahead of its normal 30 day duration. If the situation improves quickly.”
Police, armed with riot gear, shields, batons and high-power water cannons with blue-dyed water containing a chemical irritant, charged at the crowd. The protesters lined up, armed with little more than a few broken barriers, plastic chairs and flimsy umbrellas. The police quickly dispersed the protesters and onlookers. Police claim that the blue dye was to mark protesters for possible later arrest. A member of the Thai media was also arrested and his Facebook live stream switched off as police ordered media to stop filming the crackdown. In the end several hundred live streams made their way onto global social media, some of them clocking up 500,000+ views already.
In addition to changes to the Thai charter, drafted by the military and voted in a 2017 referendum, the protestors are also seeking reform to the position and influence of the monarch. The Thai monarchy is also protected by strict “lese majeste” laws. If you break the laws you could serve a prison sentence of up to 15 years although HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn expressly asked the PM earlier this year not to prosecute the draconian laws.
Pro-democracy protesters shouted at a royal motorcade as it drove past crowds of protesters lining the road between the Democracy Monument and Government House on Wednesday. They held up the 3-finger salute, popularised in the Hunger Games movies and now adopted as a symbol of defiance and solidarity. There was no obstruction to Wednesday afternoon’s motorcade but PM Prayut has used perceived threats to the occupants of the Rolls Royce as part of his reasoning for introducing the State of Emergency.
Thai Lawyers for Human Rights claim at least 51 people have been arrested since Tuesday in connection with the protests. There will be more added to the last after last night.
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