Thailand: Protesters take to Bangkok streets despite warning

Hundreds of protesters took to streets across Thailand’s capital Bangkok on Saturday in defiance of a crackdown on three months of demonstrations aimed at the government and the powerful monarchy.

After police used water cannon for the first time against a protest by thousands in central Bangkok on Friday, protesters agreed to assemble at different points across the city on Saturday.

Several hundred, many in black T-shirts, staged a rally at the Lat Phrao station in northern Bangkok.

Protests were also reported from several other parts of the city as police said rail services were shutting in much of central Bangkok to thwart the demonstrations.

“Prayuth, get out,” the protesters chanted, in reference to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military ruler they accuse of engineering an election last year to prolong the hold of the army.

Al Jazeera’s Tony Cheng, reporting from Bangkok, said organisers called on protesters to gather at three different locations in the city.

“Protesters appear to have out-foxed the police who have effectively shut down Bangkok. Some of the protesters have come out wearing hard hats. They are expecting heavy-handed response this evening from the police,” Cheng said.

In the past week, police have arrested more than 50 people, including several protest leaders.

“Violent or not, all gatherings are illegal,” police spokesman Yingyos Thepjamnong told a news conference.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri told Reuters news agency that “there is no win or loss for any side, it’s all [causing] damage to the country. The government would like to ask protesters to not gather and remain peaceful”.

Thousands rallied on Friday, pushing against police who responded by firing chemically-laced water that was dyed blue [File: Diego Azubel/EPA]On Thursday, Thailand ordered a ban on protests which have become the biggest challenge in years to the government and have brought unprecedented criticism of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Immediately after the ban, tens of thousands of people protested in Bangkok in defiance.

Thousands more rallied on Friday, pushing back against riot police who responded by firing chemically-laced water that was dyed blue.

“I condemn those who cracked down on the protesters and those who ordered it. You all have blood on your hands,” protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, said after being freed on bail following his arrest on Friday.

Protesters demand the removal of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup. He rejects protesters’ accusations that he engineered last year’s election to keep power. Breaking a long-standing taboo, protesters have also called for curbs on the power of the monarchy.

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