Saturday, October 31

New pro-democracy protest in Thailand, despite ban

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators defied Sunday, for the fourth consecutive day, the ban on assemblies in Bangkok to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister and a reform of the monarchy.

“Dissolution of Parliament!” “Shame on the dictator” chanted the crowd, gathered at the Monument to Democracy in the heart of the capital, raising three fingers, a gesture of resistance borrowed from the film “Hunger Games”.

Tensions on Friday, when police evacuated protesters with water cannons and carried out a series of arrests, did not deter the protest, mostly students.

Several protesters brandished portraits of protest leaders arrested in recent days, including that of activist Anon Numpa who has been detained since Friday in Chiang Mai (north).

Helmets, goggles and protective masks were distributed against a possible charge from the police.

Repeal of the lèse majesté law

“I want to be able to speak freely about the king, it is a legitimate right”, explains a student. The movement urges the repeal of the lese majesté law which punishes from three to fifteen years in prison any defamation or insult to the monarch and his family. He also asks for more transparency in the finances of the wealthy monarchy and the non-interference of the sovereign in political affairs.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn did not directly comment on the events, but said Thailand had “need a people who love their country“.

The organizers called for other demonstrations in several provinces of the kingdom, but also in France, the United States, Canada and Norway.

The movement, which has been on the march for three months, is also calling for the resignation of the Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-O-Cha, brought to power by a coup in 2014 and legitimized by controversial elections last year. The soldier has warned that he will not resign, brandishing the threat of a curfew if the situation continues.

Emergency measures to break the protest

Ban on gatherings of more than four people, proscription of online publications deemed “contrary to national security”: the authorities have already promulgated emergency measures Thursday to try to break the dispute.

They justified their decision, denouncing incidents the day before against a royal procession: dozens of demonstrators had raised three fingers in front of Queen Suthida’s vehicle in a sign of challenge.

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

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