Thailand protests: Thousands rally again defying state of emergency

Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in military uniform speaking in front of a microphone

Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the prime minister, fresh elections, and a new constitution.

Prayuth's government declared a strict new state of emergency for the capital on Thursday, a day after the heckling of the motorcade.

Across the Chao Phraya river, around 2,500 rallied in the western Wongwian Yai district chanting "Long live the people, down with dictatorship!", while in southeastern Udomsuk another 5,000 brought busy traffic to a standstill.

Despite a brutal crackdown by law enforcement authorities on Friday, Thai pro-democracy protestors have said they will hold another demonstration in Bangkok on Saturday.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said Saturday the police had acted properly, in accordance with the law, and called on protesters to stop holding rallies.

At least 65 protesters have been arrested since Tuesday, Thai lawyers for Human Rights told AFP Saturday, as authorities escalated a crackdown on months of slowly building unrest. If convicted, the men face a possible death penalty.

Protesters say Prayuth engineered last year's election to keep power he seized in a 2014 coup - an accusation he denies.

This week, the Government announced a "severe" state of emergency in the capital of Bangkok to end three months of anti-government protests that have targeted King Maha Vajiralongkorn as well as Mr Prayuth, a former junta leader.

The protests were halted by Covid-19 restrictions, which banned gatherings, but they began again in June when a prominent pro-democracy activist went missing. "It is being used for 30 days, or less if the situation eases".

Parliamentary opposition parties also condemned the emergency measures.

Human Rights Watch on Saturday warned the emergency decree gave police "the green light to commit rights abuses with impunity" and called for global condemnation.

Protesters hold up three fingers during anti Government demonstrations in Bangkok Thailand
Thai protesters in Bangkok have stood in defiance of the the ban and held up the three-finger salute

Prime Minister Prayut, according to government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri, defended the police break-up of Friday's rally at Pathumwan intersection. "It's all damage to the country".

Anti-government protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection on October 15, 2020.

Immediately after the ban, tens of thousands of people protested in Bangkok in defiance. Thousands more rallied on Friday.

Police largely kept their distance on Saturday, in contrast to the tactics used to break up Friday's protest.

Four police officers and one protester were injured, according to a city hospital.

"The (use of force) will increase the numbers of protesters", said 21-year-old Nine, an engineering student. The call by the protesters for reform of the monarchy has significantly raised the political temperature in Thailand.

"I condemn those who cracked down on the protesters and those who ordered it".

"Protesters appear to have out-foxed the police who have effectively shut down Bangkok".

The scenes of water cannon and protesters pushing back with umbrellas were similar to images from anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong, with which Thai activists make common cause. The king was alongside Queen Suthida Bajrasudhabimalalakshana, whose motorcade passed through the demonstration area earlier this week when protesters shouted "my taxes" and gave her the three-finger salute - a symbol of the demonstrations.

"The dictatorial government is using violence to disperse the people's movement", said protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree.

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