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World Thai protest brought forward over disruption fears

07:40  14 october  2020
07:40  14 october  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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The ongoing 2020 Thai protests are a series of protests against the government of Prayut Chan-o-cha which have included demands for reform of the Thai monarchy unprecedented in the contemporary era.

Thailand 's student movement has reignited, as young people across the country defy threats from the military-backed government to take to the streets and call for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

By Matthew Tostevin and Patpicha Tanakasempipat

Reri Grist et al. standing in front of a crowd: Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok © Reuters/SOE ZEYA TUN Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai anti-government protesters hurriedly brought forward a demonstration in Bangkok on Wednesday, saying they feared confrontation with royalist groups planning to assemble nearby in support of the king.

Vajiralongkorn et al. posing for the camera: Royalists hold pictures of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida near the Royal Plaza in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA Royalists hold pictures of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida near the Royal Plaza in Bangkok

Three months of protests demanding a new constitution and the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha - a former junta leader - have largely been peaceful, although demonstrators scuffled with police on Tuesday and 21 activists were arrested.

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Thousands of protesters staged another anti-government rally in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on Several protest leaders have been arrested. But organisers said they hoped Sunday's rally would The latest wave of protests began in February after the pro -democracy Future Forward Party (FFP)

Thai anti-government protesters ended a three-week siege of the prime minister's office and abandoned their positions around the Victory Monument Fear of reprisals brings protests to a close. Protest leaders were fearful that "right-wing thugs" would sweep in behind the troops to take revenge

Protesters have also sought to curb the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and in a rare direct challenge, chanted "release our friends" at his passing motorcade on Tuesday.

A couple of hundred protesters began assembling from 8 a.m. (0100 GMT) at Bangkok's Democracy Monument on the anniversary of a 1973 uprising that brought down the then military government. The protest had originally been scheduled for six hours later.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Police officers walk past as royalists hold pictures of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn near the Royal Plaza in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA Police officers walk past as royalists hold pictures of Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn near the Royal Plaza in Bangkok

"We are having the protest earlier because they are getting supporters to receive the royal motorcade to start a conflict with us," protest leader and human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa told protesters. "We are holding this protest peacefully."

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Over fears of growing communism and political instability, the state opened fire on students at Thammasat University. Young Thais hoped the FFP could finally bring liberty back to the people. Thailand has a long and complicated history of political instability.

Two prominent activists charged over recent anti-government protests in Thailand are to be jailed after a court revoked their bail. Anon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok were detained last month over a protest in Bangkok at which calls for political reform were made.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok © Reuters/SOE ZEYA TUN Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok

The government made no immediate comment, but has said people have the right to protest. The Palace has repeatedly declined to comment on the protests or the demands of protesters.

Pro-royalist groups said they planned gatherings near the anti-government protest, raising fears of trouble in a country roiled by a decade of street violence between supporters and opponents of the establishment before a 2014 coup.

So far pro-royalist demonstrations have been small, compared to the tens of thousands who joined the biggest anti-government demonstration in September.

"We are here to fight for democracy," said Romtum Cheyhert, 63, who joined the anti-government protest from the northern city of Chiang Mai.

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The protesters seek the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader. The Thai -language hashtag #bannationsponsors began trending late last week after a reporter from Nation, widely seen as conservative, failed to identify herself when interviewing protesters at a rally.

Thai police have detained a prominent student leader amid a growing movement calling for political reforms. Thailand has a long history of political unrest, but a new wave of protests began in February, after the pro -democracy Future Forward Party (FFP) was dissolved by court order.

Among protesters' demands are for curbs on the constitutional powers of the king and for him to transfer back the personal control he took of some army units and a palace fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars.

Royalist politician Warong Dechgitvigrom condemned the protesters in a Facebook post on Wednesday and called on the government to prosecute those he accused of intending to destroy the monarchy.

a close up of a persons face: Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok © Reuters/SOE ZEYA TUN Thai anti-government mass protest, on the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok

(Additional reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Ed Davies)

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