Thai prime minister prepares to lift emergency decree as protests continue | Thailand


Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday he was preparing to lift the state of emergency imposed to stop months of anti-government protests as thousands of protesters gathered for an eighth consecutive day in the nation’s capital , Bangkok.In a televised address to the nation, Prayuth urged protesters to let parliament – where his supporters are in the majority – resolve the differences and said he would lift emergency measures announced last week if there were no no violence.

“I will take the first step to defuse this situation,” he said. “I am currently preparing to lift the serious state of emergency in Bangkok and will do so quickly if there are no violent incidents.

“We now have to step back from the edge of the slippery slope that can easily slip into chaos,” he added.

Protesters, who have held almost daily rallies since late July, demand the resignation of Prayuth, a more democratic constitution and reforms of the monarchy – a revered institution traditionally considered sacrosanct in Thailand.

Protests have continued daily since late July and drew tens of thousands of people earlier this week after the government’s decision to impose emergency measures.

The protests have become the biggest challenge for the Thai establishment in years, sparking the most open opposition to the monarchy in decades, despite lese majesty laws setting prison sentences of up to 15 years for insult to royalty. The government’s decision last Thursday to impose emergency measures – which ban political gatherings of more than five people and the publication of information deemed threatening to security – drew tens of thousands earlier this week in the biggest demonstrations for months of demonstrations.

Pro-democracy protesters attend anti-government protest in Bangkok, Thailand, October 21, 2020 [Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters]
Pro-democracy activists send three-fingered greetings during a protest at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand on Wednesday, October 21, 2020 [Sakchai Lalit/ AP]

Even the forced dispersal of a rally by riot police with water cannons in Bangkok last Friday did not frighten protesters, who appeared in equal or greater numbers on the following days.

‘He must resign’

As Prayuth spoke on Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters marched to his office at Government House to demand his resignation as well as the lifting of emergency measures and the release of dozens of activists arrested in a crackdown.

” It’s not enough. He must resign, ”Too, 54, one of the protesters told Reuters news agency.

Protesters say Prayuth held an election last year to retain power he seized in a 2014 coup. He says the election was fair.

University student and activist Som, 20, told AFP he was skeptical that Prayuth would follow through on his remarks.

“I don’t think he will lift the emergency decree because he set the conditions,” he said, adding that the protesters must “maintain their demands”.

Wednesday’s anti-government protest came as dozens of yellow-clad Thai royalists staged a counter-rally at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok to show their support for King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy. The two sides clashed later, with the two groups yelling at each other and some throwing water bottles and other items.

Police attempt to separate pro-democracy protesters and royalists during a clash in Bangkok, Thailand, October 21, 2020 [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Thousands of royalists also gathered to support the monarchy in the southern province of Narathiwat.

In his speech, Prayuth said the differences should be resolved in parliament. Its supporters are in the majority, the entire upper house having been appointed by its former military government.

“The protesters made their voices heard and their point of view heard,” Prayuth said. “Now is the time for them to let their views reconcile with those of other segments of Thai society.

Legal challenge

Separately, on Wednesday, six university students went to a Bangkok civil court and filed a lawsuit against Prayuth, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan and National Police Chief Suwat Chaengyodsuk. They want the court to temporarily revoke the emergency decree until a full legal decision can be made on its legality.

The students, who read their petition to the media in Thai, English and German, said the decree restricted the legal right to assembly and “grossly, unjustly and shamelessly violated people’s rights and freedoms” without any respect for the Constitution.

The court did not respond to their petition but could rule Thursday on a similar appeal filed Tuesday by the opposition party Pheu Thai.

Also on Wednesday, two protest leaders went to a Bangkok criminal court and asked for their release on bail. After a hearing, however, the court denied them bail, saying they could pose a threat to public order.

The two – Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul – were initially arrested during an attempted night rally outside the Prime Minister’s office on the night of October 14.

As he was driven into the courtroom in a prison van, Parit opened a window, gave a three-fingered salute – the protesters’ symbol of defiance – and shouted: “The court must settle down.” on the side of the people! “

Royalists take part in a rally to show their support for the Royal Thai establishment in the Su-ngai Kolok district in Thailand’s southern province of Narathiwat on October 21, 2020 [Madaree Tohlala/AFP]

Another activist was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with protests last week. Suranart Panprasert is accused of being involved in acts of prejudice against the Queen when her procession passed in front of a small crowd of protesters. Depending on exactly what he’s charged in court, he could face a life sentence if convicted.

According to witnesses and video footage, no violence occurred as the procession passed, but a small group of people made the three-fingered protest gesture and shouted slogans on the car carrying Queen Suthida, the wife of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Thailand’s parliament is meeting again for a special session next week to deal with political pressure from the protests. The government also sought to censor reporting of the protests, citing “distorted information” that could cause unrest and confusion, but targeted media continued to broadcast on Wednesday.


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