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Emergency decree announced against student-led democracy protests in Bangkok

Bangkok: Thai government has announced an emergency decree to stem largely peaceful student-led democracy protests in Bangkok, including a ban on large gatherings.

The emergency measures came into effect at 0400 hrs local time on Thursday (2100 GMT on Wednesday) after a televised announcement read out by police said urgent measures were needed to “maintain peace and order”.

According to a BBC report, three key protest leaders — the human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, student activist Parit Chiwarak, widely known by his nickname “Penguin” and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul. have also been arrested.

Both Anon and Panusaya have been arrested earlier as well.

Among the key demands being made by demonstrators are that the government headed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief who seized power in the coup, be dissolved; that the constitution be rewritten and that authorities stop harassing critics.

Shortly after the decree took effect, Thai riot police cleared protesters from outside the prime minister’s office. Some tried to resist, using makeshift barricades, but they were pushed back, Reuters news agency reported.

Hundreds of police were seen on the streets even after protesters were dispersed.

In addition to limiting gatherings to four people, the decree puts restrictions on the media, prohibiting the publication of news “that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order”.

It also allows authorities to stop people from entering “any area they designate”, Reuters said.

The Future Forward Party (FFP) had proved wildly popular with young, first-time voters and garnered the third-largest share of parliamentary seats in the March 2019 election, which was won by the incumbent military leadership.

Protests were re-energised in June when prominent pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit went missing in Cambodia, where he had been in exile since the 2014 military coup.

His whereabouts remain unknown and protesters accuse the Thai state of orchestrating his kidnapping – something the police and government have denied.

Since July there have been regular student-led street protests. Rallies in the capital over the weekend were some of the largest in years, with thousands defying authorities to gather and demand change.

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