Thailand — Protesters Defy “Emergency” in Bangkok

  • Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration is trying to break the uprising by proclaiming a state of emergency.
  • Protesters have a series of demands against the government, the military, and the monarchy.
  • Thailand has previously faced many such uprisings with the elite eventually winning the day.

Thais in their tens of thousands on Thursday defied the state of emergency that was imposed just a few hours earlier by the authorities, and took to the streets again to demonstrate for democratic reforms in the Southeast Asian country. After weeks of protests, there was a wave of arrests of leading activists. 

Pro-democracy protesters show the three-finger salute as they gather demanding the government to resign and to release detained leaders in Bangkok.

“Like dogs cornered, we are fighting till our deaths,” Panupong ‘Mike Rayong’ Jadnok, one of the high-profile protest leaders told the crowd. “We won’t fall back. We won’t run away. We won’t go anywhere,” He shouted as the crowd cheered him on.

The 23-year-old activist is one of the few protest leaders who are still at large. In addition, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration is trying to break the uprising by proclaiming a state of emergency. The prime minister once served as a senior officer in the army, and he is evidently trying to employ military tactics in handling the dire situation.

Earlier on Thursday, the authorities banned gatherings of more than four people in the capital, Bangkok, as well as the publication of messages on the Internet “which could harm national security” under an emergency decree.

The authorities have also been authorized to confiscate communications equipment, data, and weapons if they are suspected of contributing to the current “emergency,” a government spokesman announced. There were already numerous arrests of the demonstrators on Thursday.

The Protesters’ Key Demands

Police officers walk with their riot gear after a mass anti-government protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok, Thailand October 15, 2020.

The protesters are demanding, amongst other things, that Prayuth Chan-ocha should step down, parliament should be dissolved, and new elections held. The nation’s Constitution currently under use, drafted by the military should be rewritten afresh by civilians. They also demand an immediate end to the intimidation of dissidents and general reform of the nation’s monarchy.

Prayuth had initially headed a military dictatorship. Even if it is now legitimized by (controversial) elections, the army and the long-established elites loyal to the king can invoke the constitution any time, and thus curtail democratic rights— for instance, the recent declaration of a state of emergency in the country.

Another bone of contention is the royal family. Currently, with even the slightest criticism of the monarchy, one can be prosecuted for up to 15 years imprisonment in Thailand, something the protestors now want to be reviewed. They are thus calling for the role of the royal family to be redefined. The protest movement emphasizes that it does not want to abolish the monarchy, but that it wants to discuss it openly.

Many participants in the demonstration in Bangkok have vowed to continue with the demonstrations until Thailand achieves the much needed democratic space. Notably, however, Thailand has previously faced many such uprisings.

The elite, consisting of the army, wealthy upper-class families, and royalists in the Southeast Asian country has always carried the day. Will it be the opposite scenario this time around?

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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