Bangkok protesters hold rallies despite transit shutdown

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Oct. 17 (UPI) — Bangkok protesters held rallies Saturday after authorities failed to stop them by closing transit.

About 20,000 people protesting against the government made their way on foot to rallying spots despite the shutdown of the rail system. The Bangkok Post described the demonstration as “peaceful.”

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The Metropolitan Police Bureau estimated there were 8,000 protesters at Lat Phrao, 6,000 at Wong Wian Yai, 6,000 at Udom Suk-Bang Na and 1,000 at Ramkhamhaeng University.

Demonstrators have been demanding Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s resignation and the creation of a new Constitution. Protesters say the new Constitution allowed Prayut, who took the helm of the country in a 2014 coup, to unfairly hold onto power in last year’s elections. They also call for reforms related to the wealth of the kingdom’s royals and an end to harassment of government critics.

The youth-led movement, known as the People, announced it would regroup despite a government decree earlier in the week banning protests and aggressive dispersal of protesters Friday where police used a water cannon to clear about 2,000 protesters, along with the afternoon transit shutdown.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Saturday saying that water cannons were used “unnecessarily” Thursday “against peaceful pro-democracy protesters,” in violation of international human rights standards.

Still, police defended their use of water cannons.

“The police abided by international standards to disperse the demonstration,” police spokesman Maj. Gen Yingyos Thepchamnong said at a news conference.

An undercover officer armed with a warrant arrested protest leader Panupong “Mike” Jandnok on Saturday, according to the Bangkok Post. The newspaper said the police presence was minimal, but front-line demonstrators passed around hard hats amid rumors of imminent crackdowns.

The bus routes resumed operation at 8:30 p.m. as protesters began to head back home from the protests.

The protests started Sept. 24 after lawmakers decided not to vote on an amendment to the Constitution despite months of public pressure.

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