World

Protesters take over Bangkok streets again in new show of defiance

BANGKOK: Thousands of anti-government protesters took over key intersections in Bangkok yesterday, defying a ban on protests for the fourth day with chants of "down with dictatorship" and "reform the monarchy".

Demonstrations have persisted despite the arrest of dozens of protesters and their leaders, the use of water cannon and shutdowns on much of Bangkok's metro rail system in a bid to quell over three months of street action.

"Free our friends", the protesters called out as they stood in the rain. Some held up pictures of detained protest leaders. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said at least 80 protesters have been arrested since Oct 13 with 27 still being held.

The police made no immediate steps to intervene as protesters took over Victory Monument and Asok, two of Bangkok's most important transport hubs. The police said there were around 10,000 people at Victory Monument alone.

"We are committed to maintaining peace and order. In order to do so, we are bound by laws, international standards, human rights," a police spokesman told a news conference.

Protesters nonetheless distributed helmets and goggles to protect from any attempt to disperse them by force.

They say Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha engineered last year's election to keep power he seized in a 2014 coup - an accusation he denies.

They are also more critical of King Maha Vajiralongkorn's monarchy, breaking a longstanding taboo, demanding curbs to its powers despite potential jail terms of up 15 years for anyone insulting the king. - REUTERS

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