201015 Thailand
Pro-democracy protesters push Thai policemen with riot shields during a demonstration in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Bangkok: Thailand’s government banned gatherings of five or more people and the publication of news or online messages that could harm national security early on Thursday under an emergency decree to end Bangkok street protests.

Protests have escalated for three months and protesters set up camp outside Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s offices to demand his resignation late on Wednesday. The government said it also acted after demonstrators obstructed a royal motorcade.

“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” state television announced.

It was accompanied by a document setting out measures that took effect from 4am local time (1am UAE) to ban big gatherings and allowing authorities to ban people from entering any area they designation.

It also prohibits: “publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.” Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Bangkok on Wednesday.

The protest movement aims to remove Prayuth, who took power in a 2014 coup that was meant to end a decade of violence between supporters and opponents of the country’s establishment.

Those marching on the streets also want a new constitution and have called for a reduction in the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn — breaking a longstanding taboo on criticising the monarchy.

Protesters shouted at the king’s motorcade in Bangkok on Tuesday after the arrest of 21 protesters. On Wednesday, some protesters slowed a convoy carrying Queen Suthida, giving the three-finger salute and chanted “get out” at police protecting the vehicle.