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Protesters return to Bangkok streets to pressure PM

Protesters return to Bangkok streets to pressure PM

Protesters gather, flashing three-fingered salutes near a main shopping district in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct 25, 2020. (Photo: AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

BANGKOK: Thousands of people protested in the centre of Thailand's capital Bangkok on Sunday (Oct 25) in the first demonstration since Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ignored their Saturday night deadline to resign.

It was also the first major show of force since Prayut lifted Oct 15 emergency measures that had been meant to stop three months of protests against the government and monarchy, but which brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets.

"If he doesn't resign, then we must come out to ask him to quit in a peaceful way," protest leader Jatupat "Pai" Boonpattararaksa said as people chanted "Prayut Out".

"I want Prayut to think as a citizen rather than as a prime minister," said 43-year-old Nuch. "The economy is really bad – since he cannot solve the problem, he should resign and let someone else do it."

Protesters gather, flashing three-fingered salutes near a main shopping district in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct 25, 2020. (Photo: AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe) Thailand Protests

The prime minister's office posted a note on Twitter to say he was not quitting. He has said the crisis should be discussed in parliament, which is due to hold a special session on Monday and Tuesday.

But his opponents have little faith in an assembly dominated by his supporters.

There was no sign of a major police presence around protesters at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, an emotive location for protesters as the scene of bloodshed in 2010 in a crackdown by security forces on anti-establishment protests.

A government spokesman said there would be no use of force and called on people to remain peaceful and respect the law.

In the relaxed atmosphere, a group of drag queens gathered to put on a show.

A protester (left) flashes three-fingered salutes to passengers on a bus in Bangkok, Thailand, Oct 25, 2020. (Photo: AP/Sakchai Lalit) Thailand Protests

Protests since mid-July have put the greatest pressure in years on the establishment, particularly with taboo-breaking calls to limit the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn's monarchy.

On Monday, protesters are planning to march to the German Embassy in a message to the king, who is currently in Thailand, but spends much of his time in Germany.

The monarch has been back in Thailand for the past week and a half to commemorate a Buddhist holiday and the death of his late father Bhumibol Adulyadej.

He has not commented on the demonstrations, despite tension in Bangkok as protesters grow bolder in their challenge to the royal institution.

But the king has made rare public visits with his supporters waiting outside the palace – a charm offensive for an army of local and international media.

On Friday, he broke with royal protocol to praise a man who had held up a portrait of the king's parents at a rally.

"Very brave. So good. Thank you," the king told the man, according to footage posted on Facebook.

Following the interaction, that quote trended as a hashtag on Twitter in Thailand.

Also top-trending on Sunday morning was the hashtag "25 October mob".

"Going to the German Embassy reflects the evident problem of the king's exercise of power is making many people uncomfortable and raises questions whether it violates the German law," said activist Piyarat "Toto" Chongthep.

Protesters seek the departure of Prayut and a new Constitution. He rejects their accusation that he engineered last year's election to keep power he first took in a 2014 coup. They have also demanded curbs on the monarchy, saying it has enabled decades of military domination.

Source: Agencies/dv


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