Embattled PM says he may lift emergency measures as anti-government protesters rally for eighth straight day in Bangkok.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Wednesday that he was preparing to lift a state of emergency imposed to stop months of anti-government protests as thousands of demonstrators rallied for an eighth straight day in the country’s capital, Bangkok.
In a televised address to the nation, Prayuth urged protesters to let the parliament – where his supporters have a majority – resolve disputes and said he would lift the emergency measures announced last week if there was no violence.
“I will make the first move to de-escalate this situation,” he said. “I am currently preparing to lift the state of severe emergency in Bangkok and will do so promptly if there are no violent incidents.
“We must now step back from the edge of the slippery slope that can easily slide to chaos,” he added.
Protesters, who have held near daily rallies since late July, are demanding Prayuth’s resignation, a more democratic constitution and reforms to the monarchy – a revered institution traditionally treated as sacrosanct in Thailand.
The protests have continued daily since late July and drew tens of thousands of people earlier this week after the government’s decision to impose emergency measures.
The demonstrations have become the biggest challenge to Thailand’s establishment in years, prompting the most open opposition to the monarchy in decades, despite lese majeste laws setting jail terms of up to 15 years for insulting royalty. The government’s decision last Thursday to impose emergency measures – which ban political gatherings of more than five people and the publication of information deemed to threaten security – drew tens of thousands of people earlier this week in the biggest demonstrations in months of protests.Even the forcible dispersion of a rally by riot police with water cannon in Bangkok last Friday failed to faze protesters, who appeared in equal or greater numbers on subsequent days.
‘He must resign’
As Prayuth spoke on Wednesday, tens of thousands of protesters marched towards his office at Government House to demand his resignation as well as the lifting of the emergency measures and release of dozens of activists arrested in a crackdown.
“It’s not enough. He must resign,” Too, 54, one of the marchers, told Reuters News Agency.
Protesters say Prayuth engineered an election last year to keep hold of the power he seized in a 2014 coup. He says the election was fair.
University student and activist Som, 20, told AFP he was sceptical that Prayuth would follow through on his words.
“I don’t believe he will lift the emergency decree as he has set conditions,” he said, adding the protesters must “keep up their demands”.
Wednesday’s anti-government demonstration came as scores of yellow-clad Thai royalists held a counter rally at Ramkhamhaeng University in Bangkok to show support for King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy. The two sides later clashed, with both groups shouting at each other and some throwing water bottles and other objects.