Thousands of Thai protesters hit the streets for a second night on Thursday, defying a government emergency decree aimed at quelling pro-democracy demonstrations that have gripped the country for more than three months.
The government issued an emergency decree that came into effect at 4am local time on Thursday. The order banned protests as it clamps down on largely peaceful pro-democracy rallies that have also targeted the monarchy.
In a televised announcement the government said urgent measures were needed to “maintain peace and order”.
It said protesters had intended to instigate an incident leading to “chaos and incitement of conflict and public disorder”.
It cited the “obstruction to the royal motorcade” as one of the reasons for its imposition.
The government also cited protesters obstructing a royal motorcade as reason for the emergency decree. Video from the scene showed police pushing back protesters who were shouting and making the defiant three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” movies as a car carrying Queen Suthida and King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s youngest son, Prince Dipangkorn, slowly drove past.
Police arrested 22 people, including three prominent activists, after the government announced a ban on gatherings of more than five people.
Authorities warned through a loudspeaker that demonstrators were violating the emergency decree, were being photographed and could be prosecuted and arrested. But thousands of people congregated at the Ratchaprasong Intersection in Bangkok’s commercial center, chanting, jeering at police, and waving lights from their cell phones.
Thailand’s student-led democracy movement began in July, they been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. The former army chief had seized power in a 2014 coup before he was appointed as premier after controversial elections last year.
The protests have widened in recent months to also call for curbs on the king’s powers.
Demonstrators also demand the constitution be rewritten; that the authorities stop harassing critics and royal reform are particularly sensitive in where criticism of the monarchy is punishable by long prison sentences.