Thousands of young protesters returned to the streets of Bangkok on Saturday, a day after riot police used a water canon to disrupt a rally in the city center. (October 17)
BANGKOK – Pro-democracy activists in Thailand staged a fourth straight day of high-profile protests in the capital on Saturday, blocking efforts by authorities to stop them, including the shutdown of city mass transit systems.
Unlike the protests of the previous day, where police used a water cannon to disperse the protesters, demonstrations on Saturday were peaceful, with no reports of any clashes once participants began to return home. at night.
Protesters called on Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, to change the constitution to make it more democratic and the country’s monarchy to undergo reforms.
All of Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain transit system stations were closed on Saturday afternoon to try to prevent protesters. The underground MRT system was also closed, and police blocked many roads.
The protesters still met as planned at Skytrain stations, where they held small non-walking rallies, establishing a temporary but active presence throughout the city.
The organizers have issued a fresh advice for followers to gather at three stations outside the city’s central area, where access is easier. Once that was announced, the money was pooled by the participants so they could take taxis to get around the transit closure.
“Right now we can’t do anything,” said a 26-year-old hotel worker who asked to just call Veronica. “All we can do now is just show our power to see the outside.”
Thousands of people gathered in many locations, with several words expressing their views on a megaphone. At night, the police did not disturb them, although some groups marched on the street. The protesters began to disperse at 8pm, at which time the organizers said the protests would end.
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Protesters protested despite the state of emergency imposed by Prayuth on Thursday that all were subject to arrest.
They also appear unscathed in a collapse at their rally in central Bangkok on Friday night, where riot police were backed by water cannons clearing the streets for nearly an hour.
No major injuries were reported from that confrontation. This is the first time in three months of widespread protests that the authorities have used very strong tactics against the student-led movement.
A 20-year-old student using the name Ryo said events on Friday night hardened his resistance.
“I respect the people’s political opinions, but after yesterday’s incident, I think it is very rude, committing violence against unarmed people without weapons to fight,” he said.
Protective items such as goggles were distributed on Saturday at several venues.
Friday night’s violent dispersal led the People’s Party, the umbrella organization of protesters, to declare in a statement that “the government and the military have established themselves as the enemy of the people.” Most of the top leaders of the group were arrested.
Protesters are doing their best to avoid the authorities, using social media to gather followers before the police have time to block them. The government has announced plans to take legal action against Twitter and Facebook accounts expressing protests, but fresh calls for action were posted on Saturday.
Protesters Prayuth, who as army commander led a 2014 coup that toppled an elected government, has been accused of returning to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws were changed to favor a anti-military party. Protesters say a constitution declared under military rule and passed a referendum in which the campaign against it is illegal is not democratic.
Protesters’ call for monarchical reform has significantly raised the temperature of politics in Thailand, which has angered many older Thai conservatives who are focusing on any critical discussion of the royal family’s infidelity.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and other key members of the royal family were protected by the law lese majeste which was regularly used to silence critics who risked up to 15 years in prison if the institution was considered insulted.
Prayuth’s declaration of a state of emergency said the initiative was necessary because “some groups of perpetrators were intended to initiate an unfortunate incident and movement in the Bangkok area by various means and by of various channels, including the cause of the obstruction in the royal motorcade. “
He was referring to an incident on Wednesday that showed several members of a small crowd hecking a motorcade carrying Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn as they slowly passed by.
On Friday, two activists were arrested under a law covering violence against the queen for their alleged involvement in the incident. They can face life in prison if convicted. They rejected any wrongdoing.
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