Thai PM recalls parliament as protesters step up pressure

Thai PM recalls parliament as protesters step up pressure”

The government ordered a ban on news and online information that could affect national security last Thursday as it also banned political gatherings of more than five people in the face of the growing challenge.

Prayuth told reporters the state of emergency will remain only in Bangkok for now.

"We are just asking people not to do wrong and destroy the government and people's property", he said.

The largely leaderless movement is calling for the resignation of Prayuth - a former army chief and the mastermind of a 2014 coup - as well as the rewriting of the military-drafted constitution they say rigged last year's election in his favour.

"We received information from intelligence units concerned that parts of the content and distorted information have been used and disseminated to cause confusion and instigate causing unrest to society", police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told a news conference. Police gave a figure of 20,000 protesters in the capital.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society Puttipong Punnakanta said on Monday that media outlets and internet service providers have been asked to remove content that is seditious or defamatory against Thailand's monarchy because it violates an emergency law against the ongoing protests.

They have also copied many tactics employed by Hong Kong protesters during months of frequently violent clashes there previous year, including using improvised protective clothing in case of confrontations with riot police.

Kissana spoke after a leaked copy of the censorship request, officially termed an order, circulated on social media.

The order calls for blocking access to the online sites of Voice TV, The Reporters, The Standard, Prachatai and Free Youth, and removing their existing content. It also proposes a ban on Voice TV's over-the-air digital broadcasts.

Pro-democracy activists flash three-fingered salute during a demonstration at Kaset intersection suburbs of Bangkok
Pro-democracy activists flash a three-fingered salute during a demonstration in Bangkok

All of the outlets have been broadcasting live coverage of the protests.

On Monday protesters used secure messaging platforms to organise gatherings across Bangkok, seemingly keeping a step ahead of authorities trying to block access to rally points. At least one local cable TV provider, however, has been censoring global news broadcasts during their segments on the Thai protests.

"Bona fide journalists should be allowed to report important developments without the threat of bans, suspensions, censorship or prosecution hanging over them", the club said in a statement.

epa08756734 A person poses with a phone displaying Thai media web page showing the Royal Gazette of the government, who is ordering the ban media under the emergency decree, in Bangkok, Thailand, 19 October 2020. It has also warned that it will take legal action against those who promote the protests on social media, including by taking photographs there or checking into them on social media apps.

They are also calling for the reform of the kingdom's powerful and ultra-wealthy monarchy - a long-taboo subject.

By midday, #SaveFreePress was the latest hashtag trending on Thai Twitter, one of several platforms being used by tech-savvy protesters to coordinate their activity.

Prayuth warned on Monday that the government needed to protect the monarchy.

As the pressure mounting up, Prayuth said on Monday that parliament - now in recess - would be recalled to discuss how to reduce tensions.

The movement became particularly heated when protesters began demanding reforms of the monarchy - an institution protected by an outdated lese-majeste law, meaning that insulting the monarchy can be punished with three to 15 years in prison. It was not clear when that might be held.

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