Thai protest: Emergency decree issued, demonstrators arrested for defying crackdown

Police and protesters clash at the scene of the demonstration

The Thailand government has arrested many prominent protest leaders and announced a ban on gatherings of more than five people using an emergency decree. The emergency decree is aimed at curbing pro-democracy demonstrations that have lasted three months.

An emergency decree was issued early on Thursday morning in response to protests in Bangkok on Wednesday. In a televised announcement, the government said urgent measures were needed to maintain peace and order.

But the protesters came out again on Thursday, with hundreds gathering peacefully in Bangkok's Ratchaprasong district, many raising the now-famous three-finger salute. Riot police gathered around the protesters and pictures from the scene showed clashes and some protesters being forcefully arrested.

The emergency declaration also imposes a nationwide ban on publishing and broadcasting information, through any means of communication, that causes fear among the public.

Police said on Thursday they had arrested about 20 people starting in the early hours of the morning. Those arrested include three protest leaders - the human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, student activist Parit Chiwarak, widely known by his nickname "Penguin", and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul.

In a widely watched live stream video, police officers were seen reading out charges to Ms Panusaya in a hotel room. Another video showed police putting her into a car as she and her supporters chanted slogans.

Why the protest?

The growing student-led democracy movement has become the greatest challenge in years to Thailand's ruling establishment.

Protesters are demanding the resignation of Mr Prayuth, following his election in the controversial 2019 polls. They also seek the rewriting of the constitution, whose amendments in recent years have been disputed, as well as an end to the harassment of state critics. Mr Prayuth rejects accusations the electoral laws were fixed in his favour.

Since August, the calls for change have grown to include reform to the monarchy, sparking unprecedented public discussion of an institution long shielded from criticism by law.

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