Thailand declares state of crisis – protest leaders arrested – VG

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STUDENT LEADER ATTACKED: Student leader Panusaya Sithijirawattankul speaks to a police officer during a previous demonstration in Bangkok. Now she is among a number of protest leaders who have been arrested. Foto: Wason Wanichakorn / AP / NTB

Thailand has declared a state of crisis after extensive and unusual protests against the country’s government and monarchy. More than 20 protesters have been arrested.

Several protest leaders are among those arrested. One of them is the student leader Parit Chiwarak, better known as the “Penguin”, says Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, another of the activists.

A video on Facebook later showed how Panusaya is eased into a car by the police, while her followers shout “Long live the people!”.

The crisis measures mean that it is not allowed to have more than four people together, and that the police can seize “electronic communication equipment, data and weapons that are considered to have created the crisis situation”. The order applies to parts of Bangkok, and the prime minister justifies it with “aggression that affects the stability of the state”.

CRISIS ORDER: The Thai government has issued a crisis order following extensive demonstrations in Bangkok. Thousands of protesters gathered to demand the resignation of the prime minister and the reform of the constitution and the country’s monarchy. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP / NTB

Former junta manager

The protests started on Wednesday. Thousands have gathered around the government offices in Bangkok demanding that the country’s prime minister, former army chief and coup maker Prayut Chan-o-cha, resign.

Thailand’s current leader was a former defense chief and in 2014 led a coup that led to the country being ruled by a military junta for the next five years. During this period, a new constitution was written, and last year elections were held so that a civilian government could take over, but it is still Prayut who is head of government.

Analysts believe that the new constitution was designed in such a way that it secured Prayut victory.

PROTESTING AGAINST MONARCHY: A democracy activist shows the three-finger symbol that has become a sign of the protest movement in Thailand. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP / NTB

Requires reforms

The protesters believe that the whole process was a cunning plan, and they now demand that the National Assembly be dissolved, that the constitution be rewritten and that the harassment of the opposition cease.

They have also made a list of ten demands for the monarchy, including that the ban on criticizing the royal family be scrapped. The law is one of the strictest in the world of its kind and means that people who criticize or offend the royal family can be sentenced to 15 years in prison for each charge.

Dissatisfaction in Thailand has increased since February when several opposition leaders were banned from engaging in politics. The corona pandemic has also led to the country’s economy falling apart and made the major differences between the country’s many poor and the ruling elite even clearer.

CONFLICT: Rebel police and protesters in confrontation in Bangkok on Thursday. Photo: Rapeephat Sitichailapa / AP / NTB

Activist disappeared

In June, a well-known activist, Wanchalearm Satsaksit, disappeared after living in self-elected exile in Cambodia.

Activists have used social media to demand answers, and in mid-July the campaign led to a wave of protests across the country. In mid-September, as many as 30,000 people showed up to demonstrate, the highest number since the 2014 coup.

Protest leaders say Thursday night that they will retire and meet again on Thursday afternoon. They themselves say that they have no special leader, which seems inspired by the democracy activists in Hong Kong, many of whom are also students.

According to the police, around 15,000 officers were stationed in connection with the demonstration.

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