BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand revoked an emergency decree on Thursday aimed at ending months of protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government and the monarchy, after it inflamed anger and brought tens of thousands of people onto Bangkok’s streets.
In one of the biggest shows of support by royalists since demonstrations began in July, hundreds of people gathered wearing yellow shirts – the colour of King Maha Vajiralongkorn – at a government office on the outskirts of the city.
Emergency measures imposed a week ago included bans on political gatherings of five or more people and publishing news that could affect security.
“The current violent situation that led to the announcement of the severe situation has eased,” said the statement revoking the decree.
The only specific incident given for the ban was one in which Queen Suthida’s convoy was jeered by protesters, but it followed mass protests that pose the greatest challenge in years to the prime minister and the king.
The opposition Move Forward party said it planned a parliamentary motion to look into the handling of last week’s royal motorcade.
A special session of parliament will be held on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the overall situation. It has the backing of Prayuth, whose supporters hold a parliamentary majority.
PROTESTERS SAY PM MUST GO
Protesters, who gave Prayuth a three-day deadline to quit on Wednesday, said withdrawing emergency measures was not enough.
“He’s still seeking to stay in power while ignoring all the people’s demands. The emergency decree shouldn’t have been issued in the first place,” said Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat, one of the protest leaders.
Dozens of demonstrators, including many of the most high profile protest leaders, were arrested during the crackdown. Among them was Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon, who was released on Thursday after being arrested a day earlier.Patsaravalee, 25, told reporters after being freed that the court showed there is some justice in Thailand.
“The court deemed that I’m still a student and also, I think that we all have the rights to freedom of expression,” she said. The court made no comment.
Protesters say Prayuth rigged an election last year to keep hold of power he seized in a 2014 coup. He says the election was fair. Protesters accuse the monarchy of enabling years of military domination and want to curb the king’s powers.
The palace has a policy of making no comment to media.
Royalist group Thai Pakdee said Prayuth was Thailand’s legitimate prime minister, as hundreds of supporters of the monarchy held rallies in Bangkok and in other provinces.
“Calls by the government’s opposition for the Prime Minister to resign are only ploys to precipitate and encourage unlawful public demonstrations whereby the final aim is to undermine Thailand’s monarchical institution,” it said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Mike Collett-White)