Thousands are protesting across Thailand, PM seeks talks

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Pro-democracy protesters make way for an ambulance in Bangkok.

Bangkok:

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators took over important intersections in Bangkok on Sunday and opposed a protest ban on the fourth day with the chants “Down with the dictatorship” and “Reform the monarchy”.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader whom the protesters want to oust, is concerned about the spread of the protests and the government wants to speak, his spokesman said.

The demonstrations continued despite the arrest of dozens of protesters and their leaders, the use of water cannons and the shutdown of much of Bangkok’s subway system to suppress road traffic for more than three months.

“Free our friends,” shouted the demonstrators as they stood in the rain, a mass of colorful ponchos and umbrellas. Some held up pictures of detained protest leaders. Thai human rights lawyers said at least 80 protesters had been arrested since October 13 and 27 were still in custody. The police did not provide a total number.

Prayuth’s spokesman said the prime minister feared the protests, which have spread across the country of 70 million people, could be used by troublemakers who want to instigate violence.

“The government wants to talk to find a way out together,” spokeswoman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters. He did not specify who the government wanted to speak to.

Following the arrest of many protest leaders, previously unknown figures have emerged leading the self-organizing crowds.

Police did not take immediate steps to intervene when protesters took over the Victory Monument and Asok, two of Bangkok’s major transport hubs. Police said there were around 10,000 people at the Victory Monument alone. A spokesman said there were no plans to suppress the protest there.

Protesters say Prayuth held the election last year to retain the power he had seized in a 2014 coup – an accusation he denies.

MONARCHY IN FOCUS

The demonstrations have also become more open to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy, breaking a long-standing taboo and calling for their power to be curtailed despite possible prison terms of up to 15 years for anyone who offends the king.

During demonstrations by tens of thousands of people at multiple points in Bangkok on Saturday, protesters painted a flag on the street that read “Republic of Thailand”. The writing was colored in overnight.

The Royal Palace did not comment on the protests.

The government banned demonstrations in Bangkok on Thursday.

Demonstrations were organized across Thailand in at least 19 other provinces on Sunday. Solidarity protests have also been held or planned in Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden, France, the United States and Canada.

Protesters who have adopted the quick tactics of Hong Kong activists have kept guessing police where demonstrations would take place with a series of social media posts.

The links between protesters in Thailand and Hong Kong have grown in what is known as a Milk Tea Alliance, which refers to drinks that are popular in both places. Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong tweeted in support of Thai protesters.

“Your determination for #Thailanddemocracy cannot be deterred,” he said.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)

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