Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in a wave of protests in Bangkok and other Thai cities on Saturday as opposed to a government attack after three months of demonstrations targeting the prime minister and the monarchy.
Many protesters said they had been moved into action by police using water cannons on Friday to disperse thousands of youth-led protesters, including many children.
“It was far above the line. We want to show them our power and that we can not accept this,” said Tang, a 27-year-old office worker among thousands of people gathered at Lat Phrao station in the capital. Bangkok.
Police attempt to thwart protesters by shutting Bangkok’s public transport network afterwards, as it led to localized protests over the city that involved three main centers and several other smaller demonstrations. There were also demonstrations in at least six cities outside Bangkok.
Police did not intervene, and protests spread after several hours.
“We will primarily negotiate,” police spokesman Yingyos Thepjamnong told a news conference. “Law enforcement will be done step by step using methods that follow international standards.”
Protesters are demanding the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military ruler. They have also become openly critical of King Maha Vajiralongkorn despite majestic laws that could mean 15 years in prison for insulting the monarchy.
On Thursday, the government banned all political rallies of five or more people. Police have arrested more than 50 people – including several protest leaders – in the past week.
‘Damage to the countryside’
Government spokeswoman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters: “There is no gain or loss for either side. It is all damage to the country.”
The royal palace has not commented on the protests, but the king has said that Thailand needs people who love the country and the monarchy.
Protesters say Prayuth constructed last year’s election to retain the power he seized in a 2014 coup – an accusation he denies. They say the monarchy has helped maintain years of political influence from the military and try to curb its powers.
The protesters at Lat Phrao shouted “Prayuth get out” as well as grosser renunciations.
“I condemn those who cracked down on the protesters and those who ordered it. You all have blood on your hands,” said protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree after being released on bail following his arrest on Friday.
Bail was also given to one of two activists accused of trying to harm the queen – rarely used charges that have a potential life sentence after protesters shouted at her motorcade on Wednesday.
The King and Queen spend most of their time in Europe and are on their longest visit to Thailand this year.
The king is mostly resident in Germany, and a German diplomat said the government is closely monitoring political developments in Thailand.
“Further violent clashes should be avoided. Peaceful expression should be possible,” the diplomat said.
Human rights groups have condemned the dozens of arrests and use of force against peaceful protests.
“Concerned governments and the United Nations should speak in public to demand an immediate end to the political repression of the Prayuth administration,” said Brad Adams, director of Asia at Human Rights Watch.