Manila Bulletin

Thailand issues emergency decree in crackdown on swelling protests

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BANGKOK, Thailand (AFP) — Thailand issued an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people on Thursday as it launched a crackdown on escalating pro-democracy demonstrat­ions that have also targeted the unassailab­le monarchy.

More than 20 people were arrested under the sweeping powers of the decree, which is aimed at halting months of student-led protests against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the former army chief who took power in a 2014 coup.

It comes a day after protesters challenged the royal motorcade, flashing the three-fingered salute adopted from "The Hunger Games" books and films, in an unpreceden­ted act of defiance against the usually revered monarchy.

After the emergency measures were announced early on Thursday, police in riot gear moved in to disperse hundreds of diehard protestors who had camped out overnight outside the prime minister's office.

Student leader Parit Chiwarak, better known as "Penguin," was among more than 20 people arrested, according to Panusaya Sithijiraw­attanakul, another prominent activist.

The emergency measures limit gatherings to four people and allow the seizure of "electronic communicat­ions equipment, data, and weapons suspected to cause the emergency situation," a government spokesman said.

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