Thailand Government has decreed a state of emergency to clamps down on largely peaceful pro-democracy street protests led by students calling for reforms to the monarchy and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. In the early hours of Thursday, around 20 activists and three protest leaders were arrested.
Today after the announcement, several Thailand citizens took to the street to join the protests after office hours chanting phrases like ‘get out’ “release our friends” who were arrested, and “our taxes.”
The decree bans gatherings of five or more people and the publication of “sensitive news or online messages” that could harm national security.
In a televised announcement, the government said immediate measures were needed to “maintain peace and order.” They partly justified the orders because some protesters disturbing a royal motorcade during a mass march in Bangkok on Wednesday.
The announcement accompanied a document setting out measures that took effect from 4 am local time (21:00 GMT) forbidding large gatherings and allowing authorities to prohibit people from entering any area they designate.
It also bans: “publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”
Shortly after the decree took effect, Thai riot police removed protesters from outside the prime minister’s office. They swiftly pushed back those who resist, using makeshift barricades. By dawn, hundreds of police occupied the nearby streets, and city workers began cleaning up.
Later on Wednesday, Anucha Burapachaisri, Government spokesman, that the prime minister had ordered police to press charges against “the protesters who obstructed the royal motorcade.”
Moreover, charges will also be pursued upon “those who had acted in a way that defames the monarchy,” he said in a statement.
Protests have escalated over the past three months, and on Wednesday, tens of thousands of people marched in Bangkok, the capital, setting up camp outside Government House. Meanwhile, several people wore yellow shirts- expressing their support for the monarchy – and gathered around the royal motorcade. Nearly 15,000 police were deployed.
Social Media was flooded with videos in the past months, showing people holding their arms up in the three-finger salute, symbolizing the democracy movement, and shouting their demands.
Several popular anti-government movements have emerged during the intense modern history of Thailand, which has endured long rounds of political unrest and more than a dozen successful military coups since 1932.
Currently, Thailand’s student-led democracy movement is protesting for the prime minister’s resignation, who seized power in a 2014 coup before he was designated as premier following the controversial 2019 election. The student-led protest now has gained momentum as now people of all ages, from all parts of the country, aside from die-hard royalists, agree with them.
They also seek to rewrite the constitution, whose amendments in recent years have been argued, also an end to the harassment of state critics. Prayuth rejects allegations the electoral laws were cooked in his favor.
From August, the calls for change have evolved to include reform to the monarchy, sparking unusual public discussion of an institution long shielded from criticism by law.
Since the coup, Prayuth has faced several, but a new wave of demonstrations began in February after a court-ordered a fledgling pro-democracy opposition party to dissolve.
Activists have repeatedly said they only wish for the monarchy to adapt to modern times.
Their demands include abolishing a stringent royal defamation law – which shields the king from criticism – and for the monarch to stay out of politics.
Since July, Thailand witnessed regular student-led street protests. Last month, tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators took to Bangkok, defying authorities to gather and demand change is one of the country’s largest rallies in years.