Thai PM rejects calls to quit as protests escalate

Cheryl Sanders
October 17, 2020

After police used water cannon for the first time against a protest by thousands of people in central Bangkok on Friday, protesters agreed to assemble at different points across the city on Saturday.

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

Roads to financial and business districts have been blocked by police, which assumed that the youth-led protesters would gather again this evening to put more pressure on the economy.

Protesters met anyway as planned at the Skytrain stations, where they held small impromptu rallies, in effect establishing a temporary but active presence across the city. Organizers had called for their followers to meet at Skytrain stations pending further instructions. Once that was announced, money was pooled by participants so they could take taxis to get around the transit shutdown.

The king is mostly resident in Germany and a German diplomat said the government was closely monitoring political developments in Thailand.

Hundreds of chanting Thai protesters demonstrated in Bangkok on Saturday in defiance of a crackdown on three months of action aimed at the government and the powerful monarchy, witnesses said. "What we can do right now is only show our power to let the outside see".

Protesters have denounced the emergency measures and the arrest of some 40 protesters in the past week and are planning another demonstration for today.

Friday's rally was broken up by a large contingent of riot police backed by water cannons after at least 1,000 people had gathered.

No major injuries were reported from that confrontation.

A 20-year-old student who used the name Ryo said Friday night's events had hardened his resistance.

Protective gear such as goggles was distributed Saturday at some venues.

"The Prime Minister asked the people to join hands in avoiding the protests and any unlawful violence".

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.

Vowing to stay on, the premier warned protesters on Friday "not to violate the law" and police shut down the planned rally site - but activists changed location to the shopping mall district of Pathumwan.

The former army chief, who masterminded a coup in 2014 before being voted into power a year ago in an election protesters say was rigged in his favour, also rebuffed calls for his resignation. Police have arrested more than 50 people - including several protest leaders - in the past week.

Protesters also want a new constitution, to replace the current one drafted under military rule. Breaking a long-standing taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy.

He added that the government is preparing several measures to deal with protesters and that the measures would be applied based on the seriousness of the disturbances.

On Friday, two activists were arrested under a law covering violence against the queen for their alleged part in the incident. They could face anywhere from 16 years to life imprisonment. The only specific incident cited by the government for the imposition of emergency was one in which Queen Suthida's motorcade was jeered. They denied any wrongdoing.

Other reports by iNewsToday