Groeiend verzet tegen regering in Thailand
October 20, 2020 - Anti-government protesters in Thailand are continuing to take to the streets as they step up their demands for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and reform of the monarchy.
The protesters charge that Prayuth, an army commander who led a 2014 coup, was returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws had been changed to favour a pro-military party. The protesters say a constitution written and passed under military rule is undemocratic.
But their more recent demand for checks and balances on the monarchy has deeply angered conservative Thais – and broken a taboo since the monarchy is considered sacrosanct and tough laws protecting it from insult mean its role is not usually discussed openly. It has also raised the risk of confrontation in a country where calls for political change have a history of being met with military intervention or even violence.
The government has sought to weaken the protesters’ resolve over the past week by arresting their leaders, declaring a state of emergency for Bangkok that makes all rallies illegal, and trying to physically impede their gatherings, including by closing mass transit stations.
However, when it sent riot police backed by water cannons to break up a rally in Bangkok on Friday, it only drew widespread criticism for the use of force, and failed to discourage the protesters, who have continued to gather in large numbers every day. Protests have also spread to other provinces.
Authorities are now increasingly turning to censorship to try to clamp down on the demonstrations. Thai media reported Tuesday that a court ordered that Voice TV stop broadcasting on all platforms. The company, which was founded by the son of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup, has been sympathetic to the protest movement in its coverage.
The government also confirmed that it would try to block use of the Telegram messaging app by protest groups, who announced on Sunday that they would use it for organising because they feared they might be blocked on other platforms, such as Facebook.
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