Ahead of a scheduled protest by pro-democracy protesters set in the Sanam Luang area for this evening, the Bangkok Metropolitan Police have delivered strong warnings to the protesters this afternoon, March 20th, 2021.
Protest group Redem, along with several other groups which say they support today’s protest, is planning to hold a pro-democracy protest at Sanam Luang tonight from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. to protest several pro-democracy leaders continuing to be held in Thai prison without bail for Lese Majeste and sedition charges, along with some other various lesser charges. These charges could see the protest leaders sentenced to up to fifteen years along with other penalties.
Sanam Luang contains several major landmarks, notably the Grand Palace. The protesters have stated a variety of “activities” are planned, with police warning that several of the “activities” violate Thai law and could see protesters face Lese Majeste charges.
In response, the Bangkok Police held a press conference this afternoon, warning protesters that any sort of rally or mass gathering is against Thai law currently, citing it was not political, according to them, but due to the potential spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Bangkok passed a ban on mass rallies, gatherings, and protests earlier this year, which had already been banned by the Emergency Decree to control the virus but has now been strengthened by the additional ban. 22 companies of police are being dispatched to Sanam Luang this evening which will mean a substantial police presence.
Meanwhile, the Nonthaburi Provincial Police Station in Rattanathibet raided a book publisher this afternoon to seize a book that protesters were planning to hand out at the rally that allegedly contains material that could violate Lese Majeste laws. The book, Book of the Monarchy and Thai Society, is from an alternative publisher focused on liberal and progressive politics, according to Nonthaburi Police. The Police stated they had a warrant from the Nonthaburi Provincial Court to raid the publisher.
Lieutenant General Piya Tawichai, Deputy Chief of Police in Bangkok, spoke to the press this afternoon and advised motorists to avoid the area around the Sanam Luang area (map below in Thai) and to expect significant traffic delays this evening.
Protesters from Redem posted on social media earlier today condemning the barricades and containers placed around the area, claiming that they caused more disruption than protesting and were blocking students from taking exams scheduled for this morning. Lt. General Piya dismissed this claim, stating that the exam location was not near the barriers and was not disrupted and consequently blamed the protesters for causing the disruption and need for the barriers and traffic checkpoints, reminding them once again that this evening’s gathering was illegal, not approved, and against Thai law.
Finally, Lt. General Piya also warned that protesters could be harshly charged with “all possible laws” if found to be handing out material that was considered against Thai law or contained libel or defamation of character. This followed the protester’s prior announcements about handing out books and speeches from a protest leader.
The Pattaya News will monitor the protests this evening and provide a complete recap tomorrow morning.
Original Photo from Twitter user “Benja”