The Thailand government has arrested many prominent protest leaders and announced a ban on gatherings of more than five people using an emergency decree, CNN reported on Thursday. The emergency decree is aimed at curbing pro-democracy demonstrations that have lasted three months.
“It has appeared that there have been several groups inviting, inciting and committing illegal assembly,” the decree read. “There have been activities which affected the public’s peace and order. Therefore, there are enough grounds to believe that violent acts have been committed. And this has affected the government’s stability, safety, property and staff. This is no longer a peaceful assembly as it should be warrant by the constitution.”
The decree came into effect in Bangkok at 4 am local time (2.30 am Indian Standard Time). Late on Wednesday, thousands of protestors had marched from the city’s Democracy Monument and broke through a police barricade to camp outside Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s offices. They called for the prime minister’s resignation and the reform of the monarchical system. The protests have been going on since July.
On Thursday afternoon, the protestors blocked Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok’s inner business district, pushed away rows of riot police and shouted for the resignation of Chan-o-cha, The Bangkok Post reported.
“Down with dictatorship...Get out...Release our friends,” demonstrators were heard shouting in front of the CentralWorld shopping complex, where protest leaders had called for a gathering at 4 pm (2.30 pm IST). The demonstrators then moved to Ratchadamri Road, which adjoins the intersection, and blocked it. The police read out the emergency declaration over loudspeakers, telling the protestors the rally was illegal, and warning of legal action.
The emergency declaration also imposes a nationwide ban on publishing and broadcasting information, through any means of communication, that causes fear among the public.
The police arrested 22 people following Wednesday’s anti-government protests, Police Colonel Kissana Phathanacharoen said. Student leader Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul was arrested on Thursday in connection with a speech she made in August. Human rights lawyer and protest leader Arnon Nampa was arrested Thursday morning following a speech he made in the northern city of Chiang Mai on Wednesday. Another protest leader, Panupong Jadnok, was also held.
The protestors’ demands include revoking laws against defaming the monarchy, a new constitution, abolishing royal offices, ousting the military-led government and disbanding the king’s royal guards. The protestors have also called for an end to intimidation of government critics.