Democracy youth pledge more rallies

Democracy youth pledge more rallies

Demonstrators confront police in riot gear Wednesday night at Suan Luang Square, where they gathered to demand the release of 10 protest leaders detained at nearby Pathumwan police station. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)
Demonstrators confront police in riot gear Wednesday night at Suan Luang Square, where they gathered to demand the release of 10 protest leaders detained at nearby Pathumwan police station. (Photo by Pornprom Satrabhaya)

Pro-democracy groups have vowed to intensify their protests and lead two million people to rally this year.

Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, one of the key protest leaders announced the plan including the goal of two million protesters a day after a Bangkok court sent four of their leaders into pretrial detention on royal defamation charges. They have not been released and have been denied bail. She asked her supporters to keep a close watch on the censure debate scheduled from Feb 16-19.

Activists on Wednesday gathered at Pathumwan intersection for a second consecutive day to demand the immediate release of leaders and warned the refusal of bail is a sign authorities are adopting a confrontational stance, she said.

About 1,000 protesters gathered and called for the release of the four protest leaders, who are Parit Chiwarak, Arnon Nampa, Patiwat Saraiyaem and Somyot Prueksakasemsuk. Activists occupied the road and the skywalk in front of the MBK Centre amid tight security from crowd control police officers. The protesters booed the officers and beat pans and pots that they had brought with them as their version of "weapons."

Adopting the belief of the Myanmar people that banging pots can dispel evil spirits, core protest leader Panupong Jadnok added that they use empty pots because they are now too impoverished to buy rice.

Besides releasing their leaders, the protesters insisted on the three demands they have mentioned in previous protests: the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, charter change and reform of the monarchy.

Ten protesters, including two minors, were arrested and released on Wednesday. The two were released on bail of 5,000 baht each, Ms Panusaya said.

While the protest started around 4pm, the protesters at around 7.30pm marched to Pathumwan police station to demand their release. At about 8.20pm, explosion sounds were heard three times in Chula Soi 5, behind the police station. Chaos ensued but nobody was hurt. A teargas cartridge was found later. The protesters dispersed around 9pm.

Deputy police spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen said five companies of uniformed and plain-clothes officers were deployed to keep the peace. Pol Col Kissana stressed that demonstrations are strictly prohibited in light of the pandemic.

The deputy spokesman said water cannons were on standby nearby but whether they would be used or not depended on the severity of the situation. The deputy Bangkok police chief said the protesters had asked for permission to rally until 9pm.

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