Thailand lifts emergency measures in bid to calm protests

Pro-democracy demonstrators line up as they march near the Government House during an anti-government protest in Bangkok Thailand

Prayuth, in the taped speech, pleaded with his countrymen to resolve their political differences through Parliament. Prayut deemed the rallies, often attended by thousands of people, "illegal" and argued that they hindered government efforts to enforce social distancing to curb the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

Tens of thousands of mostly young protesters have taken to the streets in the past week in defiance of an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people.

The cancellation of the state of emergency came as Bangkok Civil Court was preparing to rule on motions to revoke the decree on the basis that it illegally abridged freedom of assembly.

"The current violent situation that led to the announcement of the severe situation has eased and ended to a situation in which government officials and state agencies can enforce the regular laws", the statement said.

Lawmakers are expected to meet for a non-voting session October 26 to October 27, a move that embattled Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-Cha said he approved.

The largely leaderless movement is calling for the resignation of Prayut - a former army chief and mastermind of a 2014 coup - as well as the re-writing of the military-drafted constitution they say rigged last year's election in his favour.

Confrontations escalated further on Friday when riot police used water cannon and other strong-arm tactics, provoking widespread outrage.

One Hong Kong Twitter user named Crystaljel recommended using umbrellas as shields and carrying saline water, and added: "Make good use of your talent and courage". He says the election was fair.

Images from Bangkok over the weekend of activists in hard hats, goggles and gas masks facing off against the police were strongly reminiscent of the methods used a year ago by Hong Kong protesters.

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But the royal family's assets are estimated at tens of billions of dollars, and the king is said to spend most of his time overseas.

Authorities on Wednesday suffered a legal setback when a judge barred them from implementing orders banning several media outlets because they failed to follow proper procedures.

Pro-democracy activists march close to Government House, the prime minister's offices during a protest march in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

Police sought to impose censorship on media reporting of the protests, citing what they called "distorted information" that could cause unrest and confusion.

All of the outlets have been broadcasting live coverage of the protests.

Voice TV executive Makin Petplai denied their coverage had jeopardised national security.

The following activist was detained Wednesday morning in relation to a week's protests. Suranart Panprasert is accused of involvement with acts of harm against the queen when her motorcade passed a small crowd of demonstrators.

Two activists now face charges under a rarely used law banning "violence against the queen", and face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Under existing laws, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society are empowered to ban broadcasts and block internet content. Police themselves can also do so under the emergency decree, which went into effect October 15, a day after protesters heckled a royal motorcade in once unthinkable scene in a country where the monarchy is protected by strict laws and treated with reverence.

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