Thai premier ‘worried’ as pro-democracy student protests grow
BANGKOK: Thailand's premier said yesterday he was "worried" about a burgeoning student movement calling for the dissolution of his government, as pro-democracy protesters plot rallies and other creative displays of dissent across the kingdom.
His comments come days after thousands of mostly young, black-clad protesters amassed at Bangkok's Democracy Monument in one of the city's largest shows of defiance in years, shouting vitriolic chants directed at the pro-military establishment.
The students displayed an organisational savvy inspired by pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and more than a dozen rallies are planned across the country in the coming week at local universities and city centres.
Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief, yesterday defended keeping emergency laws in place in Thailand, denying that the restrictions are being used to stifle freedoms, as some critics have said.
"We are not using these laws against protesters... but what I'm worried about is their movements which authorities would have to manage carefully," he said.
"I understand the youths, but at the same time, I am also worried for their parents," he said.
Thailand's tumultuous politics has long been defined by often deadly street protests and coups.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the kingdom's economy into a freefall, and anger is boiling against Mr Prayut and his administration, which is stacked with military and royalist allies.
Thailand has had student-led pro-democracy movements in the past, and they have at times drawn deadly force from the military.
Saturday's protest at the Democracy Monument displayed the deep well of discontent among young Thais, as students shouted for Mr Prayut to step down.
They also called for the abolition of Thailand's strict royal defamation law, which protects the monarchy and the unassailable King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism. - AFP