Bangkok, Thailand –
Massive gatherings of pro-democracy and counter rallies of pro-government protesters began at and around the Democracy Monument in Bangkok at 8:00 AM yesterday, October 14, before the pro-democracy protesters marched to the Government House around 2:30 PM to demand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O’Cha’s resignation.
Besides demanding his resignation, the protesters have three main demands: Dissolve Parliament, rewrite the Constitution and stop harassment of protesters. A smaller group of protesters are also asking for more controversial reforms.
There were reports of scattered scuffles and heated arguments between members of the two opposing groups all afternoon. Pro-Government royalists lined the streets wearing yellow surrounding the protest locations adding to the tension. Both sides accused the other of various acts of intimidation. Additionally, a Royal motorcade, carrying Her Royal Majesty the Queen and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti, passed a group of protesters during the march near the Government House. Both groups were shouting at the motorcade with radically opposing views as the motorcade passed on without a major incident. This incident, however, was a major reason a later state of severe emergency was declared according to the Thai Government.
An overnight gathering was set to be held in front of the Prime Minister’s office and was originally planned to be at least three days as soon as the protest leaders arrived at their intended destination around 6:00 PM. This followed a significant delay due to various roadblocks set in place around Bangkok designed to prevent access to the Government House. In one particular tense moment a small group of protesters threatened to topple a police bus blocking a road before both sides leaders helped calm down the situation and negotiated to let the protesters pass peacefully.
More police and law enforcement officers were massing to guard the protest and patrol around the camp area throughout the night while a group of soldiers was starting to install concrete and wire rope barriers to block all entrances and exits on Ratchadamnoen Nok road by mid evening.
Law Enforcement officials urged the protesters to break up the protest by 10:00 PM, declaring it illegal, but the gathering carried on until protest leader Arnon Nampa announced during a speech on stage around midnight that the rally would end at 6:00 AM on the following day after discussions with law enforcement officials.
The protest leaders then encouraged a regathering in the business district of Bangkok later today.
Speeches and performances given by activists had continued throughout the night while protesters were peacefully resting in the area when the Prime Minister had officially declared a severe state of emergency in Bangkok at 4:00 AM today, October 15, effective immediately. This Declaration of a Serious Emergency Situation bans political gatherings of more than five people, along with other restrictions.
Riot police advanced with shields to disperse the demonstration thirty minutes later after the announcement. The vast majority of protesters had already left the protests prior to this after multiple warnings from authorities. About twenty protesters, protest guards, and four major protest leaders were captured and taken to Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathum Thani. Arnon has reportedly been taken by helicopter to Chiang Mai, according to a Facebook post on his official account.
The overnight rally was eventually completely broken up around 5:00 AM this morning but political uproar among pro-democracy activists has been rising especially on social media. Human rights groups have called for the immediate release of all protesters. The Government, meanwhile, maintains their actions were illegal and were upsetting the peace.
Some protesters are believed to participate in today’s gathering despite the fact that it is now declared illegal. Meanwhile, security officers are monitoring the situation around the area where it is told to be the gathering point. Hundreds of police officers have arrived and are constructing checkpoints and barriers amid consistent warnings that protesters will be arrested.
All routes around the Government House has been cleared by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration since this morning. Meanwhile, the deputy commander of the Bangkok Metropolitan Police said there is no sign of political gatherings in the area at this time but the traffic police have been ordered to be fully prepared for any situation which will affect the traffic.
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