Pro-democracy activists flash three-fingered salutes at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Student activists applied to a Bangkok court Wednesday to revoke a state of emergency the government declared last week to try to rein in Thailand's growing protests. Demonstrations have continued daily in a movement that calls for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, for a more democratic constitution and for reforms to the monarchy — a revered institution traditionally treated as sacrosanct in Thailand. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

Thai protesters march in show of strength against government

Thai protesters march in show of strength against government

BANGKOK — Student-led protesters in Thailand defiantly marched to the streets near the prime minister’s office on Wednesday night, repeating their demand that he step down even as he urged them to let Parliament deal with their calls for democratic reforms.

The demonstrators pushed through lines of police who, though equipped with riot gear and standing behind portable metal barriers and barbed wire, did not put up a serious fight. Police had pushed the protesters out of the same area just a week earlier.

Protesters handed government representatives what they said was a resignation form for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to sign, and also demanded freedom for their comrades arrested in connection with earlier protests.

If their demands were not met, they said, they would return in three days. They then dispersed peacefully.

The protesters’ long-term demands also include a more democratic constitution and reforms to the monarchy. The implicit criticism of the royal institution has stirred controversy because it traditionally has been treated as sacrosanct and a pillar of national identity.

In a speech televised Wednesday evening, Prayuth offered a concession to protesters, saying he would promptly lift the state of emergency he declared in Bangkok last week “if there are no violent incidents.” Withdrawing the emergency decree has been another of the protesters’ demands.

The state of emergency was declared to allow police to break up the group’s gathering outside the prime minister’s office last Thursday before dawn.

Earlier Wednesday, a group of university students went to a Bangkok court to seek to have the emergency decree revoked on the grounds that it abridged freedom of assembly. The court is expected to rule later this week.

Prayuth, in his speech broadcast at about the same time the protesters marched, pleaded with his countrymen to resolve their political differences through Parliament.

“The only way to a lasting solution for all sides that is fair for those on the streets as well as for the many millions who choose not to go on the streets is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” he said, according to an official English-language text of his remarks.

The government on Tuesday approved a request to recall Parliament for a special session on Oct. 26-27 to deal with the political pressures from the protests.

Wednesday marked the eighth straight day of demonstrations by a movement that was launched in March. It went into a lull as Thailand dealt with a coronavirus outbreak, and slowly revived in July. In the past week especially, protest have spread to other provinces.

In his television appearance, Prayuth charged that some protesters had staged “brutal attacks” against police at a rally last Friday, but acknowledged that many others, “while they may be breaking the law, were still peaceful, well-meaning people who are genuine in their desire for a better society and a better nation.”

He decried the violence, but also said that the use of water cannons by the police, who used the tactic to break up Friday’s rally, was not a way “to get to a better society.” The police’s use of force was widely criticized, and garnered more support for the protesters, who generally use nonviolent tactics.

“While I can listen to and acknowledge the demands of protesters, I cannot run the country based on protester or mob demands,” Prayuth said.

He ended his remarks with a plea: “Let us respect the law and parliamentary democracy, and let our views be presented through our representatives in Parliament.”

The protesters charge that Prayuth, who as then-army commander 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 also say that a constitution written and passed under military rule is undemocratic.

The demonstrations have continued even though many top protest leaders have been detained and the state of emergency bans public gatherings of more than four people.

On most days, police have not confronted the protesters directly, instead trying to disrupt their gatherings with shutdowns of Bangkok’s mass transit systems and by seeking to block their online organizing activities.

Royalists, meanwhile, have stepped up their presence online and held a small rally Wednesday in Bangkok, with clashes breaking out between anti-government protesters and supporters of the monarchy.

There were bigger royalist rallies in several other provinces, the first major turnouts by crowds that are easily distinguished by the yellow shirts they wear that represent the royal colour. In many cases, these rallies were led by local officials and also served to mark devotion to the royal family on the anniversary of the birth of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s late grandmother.

The authorities on Wednesday suffered a legal setback when a judge barred them from implementing banning orders on several media outlets because they failed to follow proper procedures.

Police had announced Monday that they were seeking to impose censorship on media reporting of the protests, citing what they called “distorted information” that could cause unrest and confusion in society.

They sought to block access to the online sites of four Thai news organizations and one activist group that broadcast live coverage of the protests. They had also proposed a ban on over-the-air digital television coverage of one of the broadcasters, Voice TV.

A fresh arrest was made Wednesday morning in connection with last week’s protests. Suranart Panprasert was the third person to be accused of involvement with acts of harm against the queen when her motorcade passed a small crowd of demonstrators. Depending upon exactly what he is charged with by a court, he could face a life sentence if convicted.

The incident did not involve any violence, according to witnesses and video footage, but a small group of people made the protesters’ three-finger protest gesture and shouted slogans at the car carrying Queen Suthida, shocking many Thais.

Grant Peck, The Associated Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


In this photo released by Government House, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha sits in his office at Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Prayuth on Wednesday pleaded with his countrymen to resolve their political differences through Parliament, as student-led protests seeking to bring his government down continued for an eighth straight day. (Government House via AP)

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Ethan Rowland battles with Medicine Hat Tigers forward Brett Kemp during WHL action at the Centrium Saturday night. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers claw back, hand Rebels 11th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 The same old issues continue to plague the… Continue reading

There were six additional deaths across Alberta reported over the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 1,926 since the beginning of the pandemic. (File photo)
AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Ontario Premier Doug Ford points on a COVID-19 caseload projection model graph during a press conference at Queen's Park, in Toronto, Friday, April 16, 2021. Ontario was set to backtrack on controversial new police powers to enforce stay-at-home orders implemented in the battle against COVID-19.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ford backtracks on new police COVID-19 powers amid intense backlash

TORONTO — Furious criticism of new anti-pandemic powers that allow police in… Continue reading

The official program for the National Commemorative Ceremony in honour of Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, sits on an empty pew prior to the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa on Saturday, April 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prince Philip remembered as ‘a man of great service’ during Canada’s memorial service

Canada’s commemorative ceremony in honour of the late Prince Philip offered a… Continue reading

CF Montreal head coach Wilfried Nancy speaks to his players during the team's practice Tuesday, March 16, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
CF Montreal puts on a show, defeating Toronto FC 4-2 in MLS season opener

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — CF Montreal, carving open Toronto FC’s defence, cruised… Continue reading

Demonstrators using umbrellas as shields approach a point in a perimeter security fence during a protest over the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during traffic stop, outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department, Friday, April 16, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Journalists allege police harassment at Minnesota protests

Some journalists covering protests over the police fatal shooting of Daunte Wright,… Continue reading

A container ship is docked in the Port of Montreal, Wednesday, February 17, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal dockworkers begin weekend strikes as talks drag on

MONTREAL — Dockworkers at the Port of Montreal kicked off a series… Continue reading

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read