10/15/2020, 09.22
THAILAND
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Bangkok, public demonstrations banned: blow to the democratic movement

Authorities impose an emergency decree to stop anti-government protests. Several democratic leaders arrested. Gatherings of more than four people and the dissemination of news that threatens national security also prohibited. Demonstrators demand the resignation of the premier, the reduction of the king's powers and a new constitution.

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The government has decided to ban public demonstrations against the authorities and has arrested several democratic leaders. The emergency decree, issued today by the police on live television, aims to block the protest movement against the executive and the king.

About 30 minutes after the announcement of the decree, riot departments dispersed a group of protesters camped in front of the building of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Police said they arrested more than 20 people, including human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, and student leaders Parit Chiwarak and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

The move by the authorities came after a group of demonstrators attempted to block a procession of royal cars accompanying Queen Suthida yesterday. The emergency measures also provide for the prohibition of gatherings with more than four people; the publication of news that could provoke "fear" or threaten national security is also banned

The government justified the ban with the need to maintain "peace and order" in the country. According to the authorities, the demonstrations are damaging the economy and also risk promoting the spread of the coronavirus.

The opposition speaks again of a "coup d'etat". Democratic leaders point out that demonstrations have always been peaceful; they also note that in the last four months there has been only one domestic case of Covid-19 transmission in the country.

Since July, also due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, public pressure has increased against Prayuth, the former commander-in-chief of the army, who came to power in 2014 with a coup. He has led a civilian executive since last year, but his critics accuse him of rigging the elections that decreed the formal end of the military junta.

The demonstrators, mostly young students, demand the resignation of the government, the end of the dictatorship, a democratic reform of the Constitution, the review of the political role of the king and his financial endowment. They also want the crime of "lese majesty" to be cancelled: the sovereign is a sacred figure in Thailand, and offenses against him are punished with up to 15 years in prison.

According to independent rumours, a small power group is holding Thailand hostage, and the time has come to transform the nation on a more openly democratic basis. The solution, however, lies in dialogue between authorities and demonstrators.

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