Thais defy protest ban for sixth day with 'Hunger Games' salutes

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thai protesters raised three-finger salutes to the national anthem at public places across Bangkok on Tuesday in a sixth day showing defiance of a ban meant to end three months of protests against the government and monarchy.

Pro-democracy protesters make a three-finger salute at 6:00 Pm, at the time the national anthem is usually played in all public transport stations in Bangkok, Thailand October 20, 2020. REUTERS/Chalinee Thirasupa

Protests have only grown despite a crackdown in which dozens have been detained. Two protest leaders were arrested on Tuesday on new charges just as soon as they were granted bail on previous charges.

“This is not a leaderless protest, but everybody is a leader,” Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree told reporters at the Siam Paragon mall, where dozens of people gave the salute which comes from “The Hunger Games”.

“It’s not anarchy. Everybody has judgement and will do what is reasonable,” said Ford, who has already been arrested twice since protests began.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s cabinet agreed to an emergency session of parliament next week because of the crisis, but he has said he will not quit - as the protesters have demanded. Prayuth’s supporters have a majority in parliament.

Protesters also seek changes to the constitution and a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy.

The government imposed emergency measures last Thursday to stop the biggest challenge to the establishment in years, but that only served to stoke public anger and bring tens of thousands of people onto the streets.

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Protesters had promised a big surprise on Tuesday if the government did not give into their demands by 6 p.m. (1100 GMT) - for the release of all detained activists and the scrapping of the emergency decree.

But nothing notable took place as the deadline passed. Other than the salutes at the time when the anthem plays every day, it was the quietest day since the decree was imposed.


Earlier, a court ordered the suspension of an online TV station critical of the government, which has accused it of violating emergency measures aimed at ending three months of protests.

Voice TV had also been found to have breached the Computer Crime Act by uploading “false information,” digital ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong said.

Rittikorn Mahakhachabhorn, Editor-in-Chief of Voice TV, said it would continue broadcasting until the court order arrived.

“We insist that we have been operating based on journalistic principles and we will continue our work presently,” he said.

Thailand said on Monday that three other media organisations are under investigation.

Voice TV is owned in part by the Shinawatra family of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was overthrown by Prayuth in a 2014 coup. Both fled Thailand to escape corruption cases they branded political.

The demonstrations have been largely led by youths and students in contrast with a decade of street violence between supporters of Thaksin and conservative royalists before Prayuth seized power.

Two detained protest leaders - Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul - were arrested again on Tuesday as soon as they had been freed on bail granted by a court over earlier charges related to the protests.

Additional reporting by Orathai Sriring, Patpicha Tanakasempipat, Juarawee Kittisilpa, Panu Wongcha-um; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Angus MacSwan