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Thai protesters decry government before no-confidence vote against PM

Thai protesters decry government before no-confidence vote against PM

Riot police gather outside Thailand's parliament compound ahead of an anti-government demonstration in Bangkok on Feb 19, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

BANGKOK: Hundreds gathered outside of parliament in Bangkok late on Friday (Feb 19), holding a demonstration that coincided with the censure debate against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha by opposition lawmakers inside the building.

Thousands of police officers were on standby ahead of an expected parliamentary vote on Saturday, in anticipation of another protest.

The censure debate began on Tuesday, led by an opposition that has said a 2019 election was engineered to ensure that Prayut remained in power five years after overthrowing an elected government. Prayut's administration says the vote was free and fair.

The activists took turns speaking on a makeshift stage on the road leading to parliament, criticising the prime minister and his Cabinet for abuse of power, mismanagement and policy failures in various areas.

"We know that it will be difficult to stop this government inside parliament," Sukriffee Lateh, a student activist, told Reuters.

"So our movement outside will help the public better understand the real problems that ordinary people face from this government," he said.

The protest is part of the youth-led movement that emerged last year to demand the resignation of one-time coup leader Prayut, and also broke long-standing taboos by calling for reform of the powerful monarchy that activists say helps enable establishment rule. The palace has not commented.

The police say all protests in Bangkok are illegal, citing the ban on public gatherings since a second wave of COVID-19 infections began in December.

"We will not allow the demonstrators to enter the area in front of parliament," Police Major General Piya Tavichai, deputy commissioner of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau, told Reuters earlier.

Piya said the police had deployed 900 officers around parliament and put 11,850 officers on standby for the weekend.

"We will not use all (the forces) but we have the force to be called upon when necessary," he said.

Last week, police clashed with protesters demanding the release of four activists jailed pending trial on charges that they insulted the monarchy, a crime in Thailand punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Source: Reuters/kg

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