Hundreds of people defy protest ban in Bangkok

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The police dispersed Friday evening in Bangkok several hundred pro-democracy demonstrators who had defied the ban on gatherings promulgated the day before using water cannons, a first since the start of the protest.

Cannons, mixing water and chemicals, have been used by riot police against protesters gathered since late afternoon in the center of the capital, AFP journalists noted.

Activists tried to retaliate by mounting summary barricades, but eventually they gave up and left the site.

We order our brothers and sisters to go home, warned the police before advancing towards the procession.

Prayut outside!, Down with dictatorship!, replied the protesters, many students, as a fine rain fell on the Thai capital.

A police officer was injured and taken to hospital, we learned from medical sources.

The police were wrong to use force, lamented to AFP Nine, a 21-year-old student. Gradually, the pro-democracy movement has more and more courage.

The poor are getting poorer, the rich get richer in this country, one of the most unequal in the world, we must react, for his part launched Pim, 20 years old.

On Thursday, the protesters had already defied the ban, some 10,000 people meeting in central Bangkok.

Clash between police and demonstrators.

Pro-democracy protesters face water cannons as police attempt to clear the protest venue in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday, October 16, 2020.

Photo: Associated Press / Gemunu Amarasinghe

Emergency decree

According to the emergency decree promulgated to try to break the protest that has been parading for several months in the country, the gatherings of more than four people and online publications, judged contrary to national security, are forbidden.

Two activists, Ekachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun Paothong, were arrested on Friday.

The acts with which they are accused have not been specified, but they are prosecuted under article 110 of the Penal Code, a text very rarely used. Indicted for act of violence against the queen, they face, if found guilty, a sentence of 16 years in prison for life.

These are the heaviest loads pronounced since the start of the movement.

On Wednesday, a car with Queen Suthida on board, who according to the authorities could not avoid the course of a great pro-democracy march, was stopped for a few moments and dozens of demonstrators raised three fingers in front of her vehicle, a sign resistance borrowed from the film Hunger Games and challenge to royal authority.

The two militants arrested were at the scene.

I am accused of trying to harm the Queen, but I am innocent. It was not my intentionBunkueanun Paothong said shortly before his arrest.

Read also :

  • Thailand: pro-democracy movement brings together more than 10,000 demonstrators in Bangkok
  • Pro-democracy and pro-royalist protests in Bangkok
  • Massive mobilization in Bangkok against the government

The contested monarchy

Protesters raise their arms, showing three fingers.

The demonstrators raise three fingers as the resistance fighters did in the film "Hunger games".

Photo: dpa via getty images / LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA

The movement calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister and a reform of the powerful and extremely wealthy monarchy, a taboo subject until recently in the kingdom.

Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended to the throne in 2016 after the death of his father, the revered King Bhumibol, is a controversial figure.

He strengthened his powers, notably taking direct control of the royal fortune. His frequent stays in Europe, even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, have also raised questions.

The Prime Minister promulgated the emergency measures Thursday, the day after the incident with the queen's procession.

Don't break the law!, he warned on Friday, I will not resign.

More than twenty activists, including several leaders of the movement, were arrested shortly after the decree was issued.

One of them, Anon Numpa, was taken to Chiang Mai (north) where he was refused bail, according to his lawyer.

Thailand is used to political violence, with 12 coups d'état since the abolition of absolute monarchy in 1932.

Prayut Chan-O-Cha himself seized power following a coup in 2014. He then took over as head of a civilian government after controversial elections last year.

Considering the situation, the likelihood of another takeover of the country by the military is possible, notes Thitinan Pongsudhirak, political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

Protesters will not stop until their demands are met. Without concessions on the part of the authorities, tensions are to be expected.

Opposition party Pheu Thai urged government immediately lift emergency measures and to release those arrested.


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