Thai police warn protesters risk arrest ahead of planned demonstrations

BANGKOK (CNA) – Thai police warned anti-government protesters planning demonstrations in Bangkok yesterday they risked being arrested following an order overnight that banned public gatherings in the capital and surrounding provinces.

A youth-led protest movement sprang up last year calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former military leader, and reform of the powerful monarchy, and a clash between police and protesters last week was the most serious so far.

Police used rubber bullets for the first time last Sunday, as well as tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters. Ten protesters and 26 police were injured.

“Protests are illegal. Anyone who joins or invites others to join is breaking the law,” Bangkok Metropolitan Police Bureau Deputy Commissioner Piya Tavichai told a news conference.

He said police might not enforce the ban on gatherings immediately, so long as protesters were peaceful and did not trespass on, or vandalise public or private properties. He went on to warn of harsher measures if protesters became unruly.

In a podcast yesterday, the prime minister urged Thais to respect the law and avoid conflict.

“We have to love each other and be united, not divided, and respect the law,” said Prayut, who first came to power after leading a military coup in 2014.

Protesters take part in an anti-government demonstration in Bangkok. PHOTO: AFP