Thailand announces emergency decree to quell pro-democracy protests

Thailand announces emergency decree to quell pro-democracy protests

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.

Thai government has announced an emergency decree to stem largely peaceful student-led democracy protests in Bangkok, including a ban on large gatherings.

Protesters then broke through police lines and marched to Government House, the prime minister's residence.

- What do the protesters want?

The announcement of an emergency, signed by the prime minister and former general Prayut Chan-o-cha, reflects fears that protesters meant to obstruct a planned movement of the royal motorcade, which is classed as a violation of the Public Assembly Law and the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand.

It followed elections in March a year ago - the first since the military seized power in 2014. They have to build new prisons, "she said".

A pandemic lockdown, which sent Thailand's economy into freefall, exposed the chasm between the billionaire class and the poor.

Protests in the country this year are thought to have been fuelled in part by the disappearance of Thai pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in June.

Over the previous year activists in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan who are critical of authoritarian China have formed an online movement dubbed the "Milk Tea Alliance" - so named because of a shared love of the sugary drink.

Protests planned for Wednesday began early in an effort to avoid clashes with pro-monarchy demonstrators gathered close by.

Queen Suthida could be seen staring from a limousine window as protesters held up three-fingered salutes - a gesture of defiance the pro-democracy movement has borrowed from the popular "Hunger Games" films. It is only a matter of time before we see similar protests again.

Such overt challenges to the monarchy are unheard-of in Thailand, where the royal family's influence permeates every aspect of society.

One change is that police said they will install checkpoints around Bangkok for security purposes.

In the latest protests, leaders have repeatedly said they wish only for the monarchy to adapt to modern times.

When Anon Nampa, a deceptively mild-looking lawyer, first called for an honest discussion about the monarchy, on 3 August, you could nearly hear the collective intake of breath across the country at his boldness.

Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has sacked another six officials in a week of drama in the royal court. 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.

At his side are the arch-royalist military and powerful billionaire clans.

The movement has also spread to high schools across the country, with teenagers tying white bows of solidarity in their hair and on backpacks.

Protesters also filled the walkways of the nearby shopping complex, holding up the three-finger salute adopted as a symbol of opposition after Prayut's 2014 coup.

In an attempt to "maintain peace and order", the Thai government has issued an emergency decree banning large gatherings, limiting groups to a maximum of four people. The police arrested at least 22 people, including the protest leaders Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Prasiddhi Grudharochana, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

Nevertheless, analysts say the incident with the royal motorcade may harden positions.

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