Prayut softens tone as rallies spread nationwide

Prayut softens tone as rallies spread nationwide

Protesters flocked to the area outside the Future Park shopping centre in Rangsit of Pathum Thani province for the rally against the government on Sunday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Protesters flocked to the area outside the Future Park shopping centre in Rangsit of Pathum Thani province for the rally against the government on Sunday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

As rallies to oust the government mushroomed across the country, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha appeared to tone down his stance against protesters.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said on Sunday the prime minister recognised the right to protest but said demonstrations must be held in accordance with the law.

"The government is willing to listen to everyone 's problems and continues to solve problems in all areas," the spokesman quoted him as saying.

The tone seemed friendlier than on Saturday, when according to the spokesman, Gen Prayut warned people not to attend gatherings and violate the law.

The prime minister has come under fire after police used violent tactics at Pathumwan intersection on Friday by firing water cannon at peaceful protesters.

School students confront police during a rally in the Muang Khon Kaen municipality on Sunday. (Photo by Chakkrapan Natanri)

The violent dispersal seemed to energise protests in Bangkok and other provinces. With about 20 protest leaders arrested, organisers have switched to "leaderless" rallies,  allowing individual demonstrators to address the crowds.

On Sunday, protests erupted in about 20 locations in provinces outside Bangkok. The Victory Monument and Asok intersection were the main sites in the capital.

Major rallies were held outside the Future Park shopping centre in Rangsit area of Pathum Thani province and Central Plaza WestGate in Bang Yai district of Nonthaburi province, where authorities trying to enforce the emergency decree said about 1,000 demonstrators gathered. The rally in Rangsit ended shortly before 8pm.

Students gather on the campus of Rajamangala University of Technology Isan in Nakhon Ratchasima for an anti-government rally on Sunday. (Photo by Prasit Tangprasert)

In Nakhon Ratchasima province, students -- estimated by authorities to number 600 -- gathered at Rajamangala University of Technology Isan to demand that the prime minsiter step down and senators handpicked by the junta resign.

"Prayut get out. Senators get out," they shouted.

In Khon Kaen, students numbering at least in the hundreds gathered outside Khon Kaen Witthayon demanding all activists be released. They then moved on to join Khon Kaen University students and other demonstrators on the university campus.

"Release our brothers," one student banner hung outside the school read.

Approximately one thousand students attended a rally at Chiang Mai University that ended shortly after 10pm on Sunday. Speakers onstage said if the student protest leaders previously arrested in Bangkok were not released by Tuesday, students would block Huay Kaew Road from the university entrance to the Maya shopping mall at the Rin Kham intersection with the superhighway, 

Students attend a rally at Chiang Mai University on Sunday night. (Photo by Phitchayapha Naitung)

Students attend a rally at Chiang Mai University on Sunday night. (Photo by Phitchayapha Naitung)

Students attend a rally at Chiang Mai University on Sunday night. (Photo by Phitchayapha Naitung)

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