Protesters to hold afternoon rally despite arrests, ‘severe’ state of emergency in Bangkok

From right, student activist leaders Jutatip Sirikhan and Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree address supporters in a recorded statement Thursday morning. Image: Free Youth / Facebook
From right, student activist leaders Jutatip Sirikhan and Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree address supporters in a recorded statement Thursday morning. Image: Free Youth / Facebook

An afternoon protest in downtown Bangkok is set to go forward despite a sweeping state of emergency imposed over the capital early this morning and the arrest of key protest leaders.

Several protest leaders not arrested struck a defiant tone, condemning the arrests and vowing to continue to defy the government and campaign for its ouster.

“The enactment of the emergency decree is meant to obstruct democracy,” Jutatip Sirikhan of the Free Youth Movement said just before 11am in a recorded statement. “We will stand our ground by going forward with the rally on Oct. 15.”

Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree said the arrests were unwarranted.

“It’s a right we are born with under the constitution,” he said. “No one deserves to be arrested from a public gathering for any reason.”

LIVE UPDATES: Protesters, police, pro-royalists clash in run-up to Thai rally (Photos)

Security forces overnight cleared the area around the Government House of hundreds of protesters who marched upon it yesterday. The new emergency decree cited their encounter with a royal motorcade, which had diverted from its planned route to drive through streets crowded with demonstrators in the late afternoon.

“Because many groups have gathered illegally in public in Bangkok, causing chaos and affecting the royal motorcade which … will affect the security and prosperity of the nation,” Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-o-cha said in a statement this morning.

He said the gathering was not protected by the constitution and also cited the coronavirus and poor state of the economy. Under the decree, large gatherings are banned. An increased military presence has been reported around the capital, and a number of police generals in charge of yesterday’s protests have been removed from their duties.

Just in: Army and police deploy in Bangkok to seal off protest site

While the authorities have said the motorcade was blocked, reporters and witnesses said it proceeded unobstructed. On Twitter, some have speculated the motorcade was intentionally diverted from its planned route to pass through protesters as a provocation.

At 4am, the government declared a “severe” state of emergency over Bangkok due to the protests, and by Thursday morning, protest leaders Arnon Nampa, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul had been taken into custody along with nearly 20 others. Before she was arrested at a hotel on Khaosan Road, Panusaya said today’s protest would still take place.

Arnon, a human rights lawyer who has led calls for royal reforms, said police were forcing him onto a helicopter to Chiang Mai without a lawyer in a brief message posted just before 11am.

“This is a violation of my rights and very dangerous for me,” he said.

Police spokesperson Krissana Pattanacharoen this morning urged people not to join the protest at Ratchaprasong Intersection.

“Those who go will be in violation of the law, and they won’t be able to say that they did not know. We are making this very clear,” he told reporters at a morning news conference.

Bangkok is now under two states of emergency: Another was imposed back in March, ostensibly to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has all but been eliminated from Thailand since June.

Since then, protests against the military-backed government erupted anew, with rallies drawing tens of thousands demanding Prayuth and his administration step down, the constitution be revised, an end to the harassment of critics, and most controversially, reform of the monarchy.

Additional reporting Chayanit Itthipongmaetee

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