Protesters occupy Ratchaprasong intersection

Protesters occupy Ratchaprasong intersection

Anti-government protesters block Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok on Thursday night, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)
Anti-government protesters block Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok on Thursday night, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Arnun Chonmahatrakool)

Anti-government protesters blocked Ratchaprasong intersection, in Bangkok's inner business district, late on Thursday afternoon, pushed away rows of riot police and shouted for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

(Video by Pattarapong Chatpattarasil and Thana Boonlert)

Hundreds of demonstrators first gathered outside CentralWorld shopping centre, on one corner of the intersection, shortly before 4pm, the time student leaders announced for a  fresh rally before being arrested near Government House on Thursday morning.

"Down with dictatorship... Get out... Release our friends," demonstrators were heard shouting in front of the shopping complex.  

The protesters, mostly young people and including high school students, then moved to Ratchadamri Road, which adjoins the intersection, and finally blocked the road.

Police read out the state of emergency declaration over loud speakers, saying it prohibited  the rally and warned them of legal action. They formed up in rows confronting the demonstrators.

The crowd pushed back the police and occupied Ratchaprasong intersection. They also kept shouting out rude references to the prime minister. Local shopping malls were closed.

Protest leader Panupong Jadnok, aka Mike Rayong, showed up to lead the demonstrators,  after disappearing from the rally at Government House on Wednesday night. Five other protest leaders were arrested on Thursday morning.

Former student Chonthicha Chaengrew said demonstrators would not stay overnight. They would keep forming flash rallies. Demonstrators had to change their tactics, she said.

The demonstrators would stand by their demands for the resignation of the prime minister, the reform of the royal institution and that His Majesty the King refrain from endorsing any future coup d'etat, she said.

Ms Chonthicha said that the rally at Ratchaprasong intersection had no particular leaders.

"Everyone here is the leader. We only arrange for loudspeakers," she said.

At 7.30pm, the demonstrators shook the doors and managed to enter the skywalk at the intersection.

At 9.30pm, Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon, a Free People leader, told the crowd she had heard reports some political parties had been invited for talks to set up a national unity government.

“If it’s true, and if any parties join it, don’t elect them because they’ll betray the people,” she said.

She urged the protesters to stay until 10pm and to go home in pairs or groups. “For officials, I’d like to tell them don’t try to disperse us. We’ll leave on our own soon.”

What the government has done is restricting liberties and discrediting what the protesters demand, she added.

“The fight today is not for ourselves but for our children. Nobody should be arrested or prosecuted because of these demands. The government must stop looking down on the people,” she said.

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