Thailand revokes protest ban that backfired

Our Foreign Staff
·2 min read
Students show support for the Thai royal establishment in a counter demonstration - TUWAEDANIYA MERINGING/AFP
Students show support for the Thai royal establishment in a counter demonstration - TUWAEDANIYA MERINGING/AFP

Thailand on Thursday revoked an emergency decree aimed at ending months of protests against the government and monarchy that had only inflamed anger and brought tens of thousands of people onto Bangkok streets.

A government statement published in the official Royal Gazette said it would end measures that included bans on political gatherings of five or more people and publishing news that could affect security.

"The current violent situation that led to the announcement of the severe situation has eased and ended to a situation in which government officials and state agencies can enforce the regular laws," the statement said.

The only specific incident given for the ban was one in which Queen Suthida's convoy was jeered by protesters, but it came after protests that are the biggest challenge in years to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Protesters, who have given Prayuth a three-day deadline to quit, said withdrawing the measures was not enough.

"He's still seeking to stay in power while ignoring all the people's demands. The emergency decree shouldn't have been issued in the first place," Sirawith "Ja New" Seritiwat, one of the leaders, said.

One of Thailand's protest leaders, Patsaravalee "Mind" Tanakitvibulpon arrives at court after she was arrested
One of Thailand's protest leaders, Patsaravalee "Mind" Tanakitvibulpon arrives at court after she was arrested

Dozens of protesters, including many of the most high profile protest leaders, were arrested during the crackdown.

Among them was Patsaravalee "Mind" Tanakitvibulpon, who was released on Thursday after being arrested a day earlier.

Patsaravalee, 25, told reporters after being freed that the court showed there is some justice in Thailand.

"The court deemed that I’m still a student and also, I think that we all have the rights to freedom of expression," she said. The court made no comment.

Protesters say Prayuth rigged an election last year to keep hold of power he seized in a 2014 coup. He says the election was fair. Protesters accuse the monarchy of enabling years of military domination and want to curb the king's powers.

The palace has a policy of making no comment to media.

Royalist group Thai Pakdee said Prayuth was Thailand's legitimate prime minister.

"Calls by the government’s opposition for the Prime Minister to resign are only ploys to precipitate and encourage unlawful public demonstrations whereby the final aim is to undermine Thailand’s monarchical institution," it said in a statement.