Bangkok shuts down transit systems as protesters persist

BANGKOK (AP) — The authorities in Bangkok shut down mass transit systems and set up roadblocks yesterday as Thailand’s capital braced for a fourth straight day of determined anti-government protests.

The protesters have been doing their best to elude the authorities, using social media to assemble before police have time to block them. The government has announced plans to take legal action against Twitter and Facebook accounts that announce the protests, but fresh calls to action were posted yesterday.

The protesters are calling for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to leave office, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the nation’s monarchy to undergo reform. The protests have been called in defiance of a state of emergency imposed on Thursday.

All stations of Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain mass transit system were ordered closed yesterday afternoon in an effort to thwart protests.

A line of the underground MRT system was also shut, and police blocked off several roads. Organisers had called for their followers to meet at Skytrain stations pending further instructions.

Police on Friday had taken similar action to block demonstrators, but failed when protest organisers announced a last-minute switch of venue.

Friday’s rally was broken up by a large contingent of riot police backed by water cannons after at least 1,000 people had gathered. It was the first time the authorities have employed such forceful tactics against the student-led protests. Both Thursday’s and Friday’s protests were held in normally busy areas of central Bangkok.

“The government has been pushing us to the cliff and now we have nowhere to go. We need to stand right now; if not now, then we don’t know when,” said one protester, a 26-year-old who declined to give her name for fear of getting in trouble with the authorities.