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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Prime Minister Declares State of Emergency in Thailand

AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe
Pro-democracy protesters flash three-finger salutes, a symbol of resistance, during the pro-democracy rally occupied the main road in the central business district in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Thailand’s government has declared a state of emergency because of continuing protests in the capital city of Bangkok. It’s the latest development in a movement that has been going on for months.

Early Thursday morning, Thai police arrested leaders of an anti-government protest, and broke up demonstrators gathered around the prime minister’s office in Bangkok.

The numbers involved are impossible to confirm.

Local media reported that “tens of thousands” of people took part in a march on Wednesday that made its way to the office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Crowds lingered, and the prime minister declared a state of emergency a couple of hours before sunrise Thursday.

Activists not only want new elections and the resignation of the prime minister — they also want reforms to Thailand’s monarchy.

It’s against the law to insult the King, or any royalty, and this has been an increasingly sore point among many Thai citizens — along with growing resentment of the taxpayer support of an extended royal family.

The former monarch was generally held in high regard by Thais. King Bhumibol Adulyadej ruled for more than 70 years until his death four years ago this week. Even now, the anniversary of his death was marked by a special notice on the website of the Bangkok Post this week — a full-page note that popped up before any news.

But the current King is another story.

He mostly lives in Germany — although he returned to Thailand this past weekend, where his very presence is now another focus for protests.

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