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Anti-govt protesters in Thailand vow to continue demonstrating

Adolfo Ledo Nass Venezuela
Anti-govt protesters in Thailand vow to continue demonstrating

Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters gather in Bangkok in defiance of a strict state of emergency after Thailand’s prime minister rejected calls for his resignation, Pro-democracy demonstrator raises a three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, as hundreds gather in a business district in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. (AP) Thai pro-democracy protesters said they would defy an emergency decree banning gatherings for a third consecutive day after confrontations the previous night saw riot police use water cannons against the mainly young activists.

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About 3,000 demonstrators in the city's main shopping mall district demanded the release of arrested protesters, and some shouted obscenities against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha before they were dispersed by police.

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Free Youth, one of the main protest groups, Saturday morning called on its supporters to return to the streets later on Saturday.

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READ MORE: Thailand protests continue after PM refuses to resign

“Be prepared both physically and mentally for the demonstration and to cope with a crackdown if it happens,” the group's online post said.

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Several hundred riot police dispersed the protesters Friday by firing blue-dyed water laced with a chemical agent from the cannons

Police later said the dye would mark protesters for future legal action

The youth-led movement has jolted the kingdom's political elite with its demands for the government to step down and reforms of the previously unassailable monarchy

The ultra-wealthy and powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn has not addressed the civil unrest directly but during a ceremony broadcast Friday reminded people that Thailand “needs people who love the country, people who love the institution of the monarchy”

Thai police with riot shields take position in a business district where anti-government protesters said they will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. (AP) 'Impunity'

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights told AFP that 65 activists had been arrested since Tuesday, including nine of the most prominent figures of the pro-democracy movement

Earlier on Friday, two activists were arrested under a rarely used law banning violence against the queen because they were among a group surrounding a royal motorcade on We dnesday during a large demonstration

Both men could face life in prison if convicted

A Thai journalist was also briefly detained during Friday's protest, according to his online news outlet, Prachathai

Premier Prayut has extended the emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people until mid-November, ignoring activists' calls for him to resign

The former army chief was the mastermind behind a 2014 coup before being voted into power in last year's election which protesters say was rigged in his favour

Opposition party Pheu Thai has called on the government to lift emergency measures and free those detained

Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters gather in a business district in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Thailand’s prime minister has rejected calls for his resignation as his government steps up efforts to stop student-led protesters from rallying in the capital for a second day in defiance of a strict state of emergency. (AP) Human rights groups condemned the government measures

Human Rights Watch on Saturday warned the emergency decree gave police “the green light to commit rights abuses with impunity” and called for international condemnation

“Concerned governments and the United Nations should speak out publicly to demand an immediate end to political repression by the Prayuth administration,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement

“We condemn any violence against the people,” the People's Movement said in a statement. “We will continue to protest on Oct. 17”, it said, telling people to be ready for the police to use suppression tactics

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters: “There is no win or lose for any side. It's all damage to the country. The government would like to ask protesters to not gather and remain peaceful.”

On Thursday, it ordered a ban on protests which have become the biggest challenge in years to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader, and have brought unprecedented criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn

Immediately after the ban, tens of thousands of people protested in Bangkok in defiance. Thousands more rallied on Friday

READ MORE: Thai police arrest more than 20 protesters under emergency rule

Police said that their response to Friday's protest had been proportionate and in line with international norms

Three protesters and four police personnel were hurt on Friday, said the Erawan Medical Center, an emergency response unit in Bangkok

Pro democracy demonstrators face water canons as police try to disperse them from their protest venue in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. (AP) Demanding curbs on power

Protesters demand the removal of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup. He rejects protesters' accusations that he engineered last year's election to keep power. Breaking a longstanding taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy

The Royal Palace has made no comment on the protests but the king said Thailand needed people who love the country and the monarchy. His comments were broadcast on state television on Friday as police clashed with protesters in Bangkok

READ MORE:  Bangkok streets witness show of force between protesters, royalists

The scenes of water cannon and protesters pushing back with umbrellas were similar to images from anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong, with which Thai activists make common cause

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong tweeted a picture of himself giving the three-finger salute of Thai campaigners and holding up a #StandWithThailand hashtag

“People should not be afraid of their governments,” he said. “Only governments should be afraid of their people.”

READ MORE:  Thai police and anti-govt protesters scuffle ahead of demonstration

Source: Reuters