Thailand uses emergency decree to ban gatherings after Bangkok protests

Thailand’s government has banned gatherings of five or more people and the publication of news or online messages that could harm national security early on Thursday under an emergency decree to end Bangkok street protests.

Authorities also arrested two leaders of anti-government protests, Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok, early on Thursday, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group said. Police made no immediate comment.

“Authorities arrested Arnon and Panupong at 5am,” the rights group said, adding that Arnon was arrested over a speech he had given in the northern city of Chiang Mai. It said the reason for Panupong’s arrest was not clear.

Protests in Thailand have escalated for three months and protesters set up camp outside Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s offices to demand his resignation late on Wednesday. The government said it also acted after demonstrators obstructed a royal motorcade.

“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” state television announced.

On the ground with Penguin, the Thai protest leader risking jail – video

It was accompanied by a document setting out measures that took effect from 4am local time (2100 GMT) to ban big gatherings and allowing authorities to ban people from entering any area they designation.

It also prohibits: “publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”

Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Bangkok on Wednesday. Protesters who had occupied the space outside Prayuth’s office in Bangkok were cleared by police early on Thursday, a Reuters witness said.

The protest movement aims to remove Prayuth, who took power in a 2014 coup that was meant to end a decade of violence between supporters and opponents of the country’s establishment.

Those marching on the streets also want a new constitution and have called for a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn – breaking a longstanding taboo on criticising the monarchy.

Protesters shouted at the king’s motorcade in Bangkok on Tuesday after the arrest of 21 protesters. On Wednesday, some protesters slowed a convoy carrying Queen Suthida, giving the three-finger salute and chanted “get out” at police protecting the vehicle.