Thailand govt’ imposes a state of emergency to curb protests
Thailand’s government has imposed a state of an emergency decree banning protests as it clamps down on largely peaceful pro-democracy rallies that have also targeted the monarchy.
The demonstrations started three months ago as a student-led democracy movement calling for reforms to the monarchy and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.
The government which has already arrested at least 20 activists and two of the movement’s leaders early on Thursday, said in a televised announcement urgent measures were needed to “maintain peace and order”.
The ruling bans gatherings of five or more people and the publication of “sensitive news” or online messages that could harm national security.
The decree also gives police and soldiers authority to resolve the “emergency situation.”
Under the state of emergency, police can detain people without charge for as long as 30 days.
Videos shared widely on social media showed police protecting the royals’ yellow car as it moved through crowds of people holding their arms aloft in the three-finger salute that has become the symbol of the democracy movement and shouting their demands.
“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” state television said.
Shortly after the decree took effect, Thai riot police cleared protesters from outside the prime minister’s office. Some tried to resist, using makeshift barricades, but they were moved back.
A democracy movement calling for reforms
Thousands of people marched to the Government House on Wednesday to demand the resignation of the ex-army chief turned prime minister, Prayuth Chan-Ocha who took power in a 2014 coup and was meant to end a decade of violence between supporters and opponents of the country’s establishment, and who solidified his position in elections that were held last year.
The protests took place on the anniversary of a student uprising on October 14, 1973, that led to the toppling of a military dictatorship.
The youth-led movement has been staging rallies since July to push for an overhaul of the government, a new constitution, and an end to harassment of government critics. Some have also made controversial calls for reforms to the monarchy, long considered a sacrosanct part of Thai identity.
Last month, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters turned out in Bangkok in one of the country’s largest rallies in years.
Activists argue that Prime Minister Prayuth, who toppled an elected government in a 2014 coup, manipulated last year’s general elections to ensure the military stayed in control — a charge he denies.
The protesters are also calling for curbs on the constitutional powers of the king and for him to transfer back the control he took of some army units. However, these public demands have been met with a backlash from the royalist establishment.
Under Thailand’s royal defamation law, criticism of the monarchy is punishable with up to 15 years in prison.