Protesters gather despite state efforts to quell movement
BANGKOK — Prodemocracy activists in Thailand staged a fourth straight day of highprofile protests in the capital on Saturday, thwarting efforts by the authorities to stop them, including a shutdown of the city’s mass transit systems.
Unlike protests a day earlier, which saw police using a water cannon to keep the protesters at bay, Saturday’s demonstrations were peaceful, with no reports of any clashes by the time participants started heading home in the evening.
The protesters are calling for Prime Minister Prayuth Chanocha to leave office, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the nation’s monarchy to undergo reform.
All stations of Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain transit system were closed Saturday afternoon
to try to keep protesters from gathering. The underground MRT system was also shut, and police blocked off several roads.
Protesters met anyway as planned at the Skytrain stations, where they held small impromptu rallies.
The organizers then issued a fresh advisory for followers to gather at three stations outside the city’s central area, where access was easier.
“Right now we can do nothing much,” said a 26yearold hotel worker who asked to be called only Veronica. “What we can do right now is only show our power to let the outside see.“
Several thousand people gathered in multiple locations, with some taking turns airing their views over a megaphone. By the evening, police had not
disturbed them, even when some groups took to marching in the street. Protesters began dispersing at 8 p.m., the time organizers had said the protests would end.
The protesters acted despite a state of emergency imposed by Prayuth on Thursday that makes them all subject to arrest.
They also appeared not to be cowed by a crackdown on their rally in central Bangkok on Friday night, in which riot police backed up by water cannons cleared the streets in about an hour.
No major injuries were reported from that confrontation. It was the first time in three months of sporadic protests that the authorities have employed such forceful tactics against the studentled movement.
A 20yearold student who used the name Ryo said Friday night’s events had hardened his resistance.
“I respect people’s political opinions, but after yesterday’s incident, I feel it was so harsh, perpetrating violence against unarmed people who had no weapons to fight back,” he said.
The protesters charge that Prayuth, who as army commander led a 2014 coup that toppled an elected government, was returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws had been changed to favor a promilitary party. The protesters say a constitution promulgated under military rule and passed in a referendum in which campaigning against it was illegal is undemocratic.