Prayuth threatens curfew if protests continue; 2 arrested for ‘violence’ against queen

Prayuth Chan-o-cha, at microphone, flanked by members of his cabinet today at the Government House in Bangkok. Photo: Thai Government
Prayuth Chan-o-cha, at microphone, flanked by members of his cabinet today at the Government House in Bangkok. Photo: Thai Government

Thailand may impose a curfew if protests continue against the government, the prime minister said today as more arrests took place in the aftermath of this week’s rallies.

Following two days of mass rallies drawing tens of thousands in the capital, Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha today indicated he is unwilling to yield to three months of growing pressure and defended his newly imposed state of emergency, saying it was necessary because of violence Wednesday.

“I don’t mean to harm anyone. Has anybody been hurt so far, except for the officers?” he said before striking a conspiratorial tone shifting blame to his political enemies. “We don’t know what people behind the mob want, they don’t reveal themselves so be careful. I’m not threatening”

Two people were arrested this morning and charged under a rarely used law prohibiting violence against the queen, with five more arrest warrants on the way for others who on Wednesday were outside the Government House when a royal motorcade diverted from its announced route to pass protesters, who greeted it with salutes of defiance and obscenities. 

Former lese majeste prisoner Ekachai Hongkangwan and protester Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong turned themselves in this morning. They face up to life in jail if convicted.

There was no indication that anyone attempted to block the motorcade or attack it in any way. Nonetheless, the police said the queen’s life and freedom were threatened. Brief scuffles broke out Wednesday after royalist counter-protesters provoked the pro-democracy crowd, and there was shoving on Thursday at Ratchaprasong Intersection as people sought to push out police officers and hold a rally there in defiance of Prayuth’s state of emergency.

Police and protesters struggle for control of Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong Intersection

Concerns had been raised after human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, who has led controversial calls for royal reforms, said he was afraid for his safety after being forced aboard a helicopter to Chiang Mai yesterday. 

The government’s been accused of orchestrating the abduction of a number of critics in recent years, who have been abducted and either vanished or turned up dead.

Anon’s Facebook profile was unavailable for a time, but he later posted a hand-written, dated letter with his signature asking protesters to “continue fighting” and saying he was “happy and proud” to fight along with them. 

A member of the progressive Move Forward Party said early Friday afternoon that he was waiting to see him at the Chiang Mai Provincial Court.

Prayuth this morning said a curfew could be imposed if protesters do not desist and rejected a key demand that he step down.

“No, I won’t. … What did I do that’s wrong?” he said before refusing to answer a question on whether there would be another coup beyond saying he “doesn’t think about it.” 

The retired army commander who led the 2014 coup and maintained emergency powers for five years said the state of emergency in the capital would remain in place for 30 days. It joins a second pandemic decree that’s been renewed monthly since March.

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