Nepal | October 21, 2020

Thailand bans protests as challenge to establishment escalates

Reuters
Share Now:
  • Publication of news that could threaten state security forbidden
  • Riot police clear protesters from prime minister’s office
  • At least three more protest leaders among more than 20 arrests

BANGKOK: Thailand‘s government banned protests and police arrested at least three protest leaders on Thursday in the face of escalating demonstrations targeting King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader.

Within 30 minutes of emergency orders, justified partly on the grounds of disturbing a royal motorcade, riot police drove away protesters who had camped outside Prayuth’s offices to demand his removal and a new constitution.

A car of the royal motorcade with the Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn drive past a gruop of anti-government demonstrators in front of the Government House, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok, Thailand October, on 14, 2020. Photo: Reuters

“The situation right now is tantamount to a coup,” said Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, one of the few protest leaders still free.

Police said they had arrested more than 20 people for refusing to cooperate with officers clearing the protest from the prime minister’s office. Among those arrested were two of the most vocal critics of the monarchy. Another was picked up later.

Three months of protests have been largely peaceful, as was a march by tens of thousands of people on Wednesday. But in one incident, police pushed jeering protesters away from a motorcade carrying Queen Suthida.

That was used as a reason for the emergency measures that include a ban on gatherings of five or more people. Publishing news or online information that “could create fear” or “affect national security” was also forbidden.

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

Other reasons for the emergency measures were damage to the economy from protests and the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus, of which only one locally transmitted case has been reported in more than four months.

‘BREAKING POINT’

“What was done today is pushing Thailand to a breaking point,” said opposition politician Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

“The government must release the protesters and end the emergency decree.”

Police said they had arrested protest leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. Arnon said on Facebook he was being forced to board a helicopter to the northern city of Chiang Mai, where he faces sedition charges over a speech in August.

Pictures on social media later showed student leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul being taken away in a wheelchair as she gave the three-finger salute of pro-democracy campaigners.

She was arrested shortly after she had urged people to take part in a protest planned for 4 p.m. (0900 GMT) despite the emergency order. Other protesters said they still planned to go ahead.

“We haven’t been able to restore a true democracy yet,” said 54-year-old Sun Pathong, a veteran of a decade of anti-establishment protests and counter protests before Prayuth took power in a 2014 coup.

“I’ll be back. We have to continue the fight even if we risk our lives.”

The protest movement aims to remove Prayuth, saying he manipulated an election last year to keep hold of power. He says the election was fair.

Those marching on the streets also want a new constitution and have called for a reduction in the powers of the king. They want his role to be clearly subject to the constitution and they seek the reversal of orders that gave him control of the palace fortune and some army units.

Criticism of the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under lese majeste laws, though Prayuth said earlier this year the king had asked that they not be enforced for now.

“The clearance of the assembly (protesters) was very reasonable because the protesters apparently harassed the queen,” royalist politician Warong Dechgitvigrom commented on Facebook.

 


Follow The Himalayan Times on Twitter and Facebook

Recommended Stories:

More from The Himalayan Times:

Parliament building of Nepal

NCP MPs to forgo one month’s salary

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 19 The parliamentary party of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) today decided not to take salary for the month of Kartik (mid-October to mid-November) and deposit the same in the government’s COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment Fund. The party decided to do so aft Read More...

Choose goats wisely, advises Kathmandu Metropolitan City

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 19 As the festive season has started, traders have started bringing live goats and mountain goats in the valley. Considering the health safety, Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has requested consumers to choose wisely while purchasing goats. For the convenience of co Read More...

EDITORIAL: Government has obligation

The govt cannot wash its hands of its obligation to provide health care and other help to the people when they most need it Seemingly, a PCR test fatigue has set in, with the government asking the people to pay for it and treatment of the coronavirus. Following the government decision on Sunday, it Read More...

Move to charge COVID patients draws flak

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 19 The Nepali Congress has condemned the government’s decision not to bear the test and treatment expenses of all coronavirus patients. The government had yesterday decided to bear test and treatment expenses of poor, helpless, single women and differently-able citizens, s Read More...

Minister of Information and Communications and government Spokesperson Parvat Gurung

Quarantines, isolation centres in Kathmandu to be upgraded

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 19 Making public the Cabinet decisions, Minister of Information and Communications Parbat Gurung said decisions were taken to upgrade quarantine centres which are not in use currently in Kathmandu into isolations centres. Keeping in view the increasing number of coronavirus Read More...

Damak Municipality shuts down services

JHAPA, OCTOBER 19 All the services provided from Damak Municipality Office and ward offices of the municipality have been closed for three days after municipality staffers and people’s representatives tested positive for coronavirus. Deputy Secretary Dinesh Kumar Neupane of the municipality Read More...

COVID pandemic affects highway completion

KATHMANDU, OCTOBER 19 Construction of the Mid-Hill Highway is facing difficulty in meeting the deadline due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the project saw dismal physical progress in the first three months of the current fiscal year 2020-21, said Chief of Read More...

BPKIHS reports one more Covid-19 related death on Tuesday

KATHMANDU: The Dharan-based BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS) reported an additional Covid-19 related fatality on Tuesday. A 56-year-old male of Itahari Sub-Metropolitan City of Sunsari district who was undergoing treatment at the Covid Hospital of the institute passed away at 9:30 Read More...