BANGKOK — Leaders of the ongoing protests against PM Prayut Chan-o-cha were detained Thursday morning after police moved in to break up their rally in front of Government House in the early hours.
At least 20 people, which include activists Arnon Nampa, Parit Chiwarak, and Panupong Jadnok were arrested by police shortly after 4am, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group said. Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul was later arrested at the hotel she was staying at about 8am.
Prior to their arrests, the protest leaders called for a new gathering to be held at Ratchaprasong Intersection at 4pm on Thursday. Arnon said on the stage on Wednesday that there are “new generations” of leaders who will lead the protesters, without naming anyone.
Panusaya also told supporters to regroup at Ratchaprasong Intersection. She had previously said that the 10 demands for monarchy reform would be escalated if police decided to crackdown on protesters.
Another activist, Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikijseree, said on the phone that the rally at Bangkok’s shopping district will still go ahead.
“I considered the state to have declared war on the people,” Tattep, who is currently not under arrest, said. “If they want to arrest, then arrest. Can they arrest 100,000 people?”
Ratchaprasong is a busy junction and home to some of Bangkok’s most luxury hotels and shopping malls. It is the same venue where Redshirt protests took place in April 2010, before ending in a military crackdown a month later. Up to 90 people were killed in the months of violence, mostly civilians.
Pro-democracy activist Chonthicha “Kate” Jangrew said the movement has gone past the point of retreat.
“Today, 4pm at Ratchaprasong Intersection, gather in a number as much as the anger burning in our heart,” Chonticha wrote on Facebook.
Police cracked down on the protest outside Government House outside the government’s declaration of a “Severe State of Emergency,” which took effect at 4am.
The announcement cited the incident in which protesters allegedly obstructed a Royal Family motorcade as well as saying that their actions were violent and a threat to national security.
However, media reports from the scene show the royal convoy and the police pushing through the demonstrators without any announcement. Many then shouted at the motorcade in anger amid the ensuing chaos.
Scuffles broke out on Thursday morning as some protesters tried to resist attempts to force them out of the area, but they were outnumbered by police officers, since many of the thousands who gathered there late on Wednesday had already left.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Police spokesman Kissana Phattanacharoen urged people not to join the rally since the new Emergency Decree is still in effect.
Gatherings of more than five people are banned under the new decree, which came on top of the already existing State of Emergency that has been invoked since March in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Thousands of people marched from the Democracy Monument to the Government House on Wednesday to demand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign.