Thailand Government Imposes Ban On Mass Gathering Amidst Student-led Protest

Thailand’s government has imposed a ban on mass gathering to end three months long student-led protest. Student activists have staged the protest in Thailand’s capital Bangkok, demanding the dissolution of parliament and asking for reforms to the monarchy and also called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.

Over a period of three months, thousands of people have marched down the capital of Thailand and have set up camp outside the Prime Minister’s office. “It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” state television said. The ban announcement came into effect at 4 am local time which disallowed gathering in a group of more than five people.

The protest which started with the demand for dissolution of parliament in July, it took a high road in August when Human Rights lawyer and protest leader Arnon Nampa started with a movement to call for reforms of the monarchy while protestors were dressed in Harry Potter’s costumes to “cast a spell” for democracy. Arnon was arrested Thursday morning after he made a speech on Wednesday. As per the report published by CNN, he was also arrested a year earlier for the protests.

A student leader named Panusaya “Rung” Sithjirawattanakul was also arrested on Thursday. He had said that the protest would take place at 4 pm (local time) despite the emergency decree. According to the reports by The Asia desk of FIDH, around 20 protestors have been arrested. The protestors want a new constitution to limit the powers of King Vajiralongkorn and to end the harassment of state critics.

One of the major reasons that provoked the government to impose the ban is the gathering of people in yellow shirts around the royal motorcade, symbolizing their support for the monarchy with a three-fingered salute. “We’re just asking them to change with us,” protester Dear Thatcha told AFP news agency.  Around 15,000 police were deployed to control the crowd.

Mathew Wheeler, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, conveyed that “many Thais, especially young people” are fed up with the social and political power. He said that the protest has put the Prayuth’s government in a tough spot. “The king is at the pinnacle of this hierarchy,” he said. “The government, born of a coup d’etat, has borrowed legitimacy of the monarchy to justify seizing power and instituting a political order that reserves power for an unelected elite.”

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist and director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University said that Wednesday’s actions were “an overdue and pent-up showdown that was kept under the lid during the last reign. This is Thailand’s grinding transformation to arrive in the 21st century”. It is now reported that thousands of people came out at Bangkok’s Ratchaprasong district despite the emergency decree. They chanted “Free our friends!” after protest leaders were detained.