Bangkok shuts down transit systems as protesters persist

Hundreds of chanting Thai protesters demonstrated in Bangkok on Saturday in defiance of a crackdown on three months of action aimed at the government and the powerful monarchy, witnesses said.

After police used water cannon for the first time against a protest by thousands of people in central Bangkok on Friday, protesters agreed to assemble at different points across the city on Saturday.

Hundreds of protesters, many in black T-shirts, assembled at the Lat Phrao station, witnesses said. “Prayuth get out” they chanted, in reference to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Authorities shut down the city’s mass transit systems and set up roadblocks as they braced for a fourth straight day of protests.

The protesters have been doing their best to elude the authorities, using social media to assemble followers before police have time to block them. The government has announced plans to take legal action against Twitter and Facebook accounts that announce the protests, but fresh calls to action were posted Saturday.

A staff member at the Asok BTS skytrain station gestures to signify the closure of the station ahead of an expected anti-government rally in Bangkok on Saturday. (Romeo Gacad/AFP via Getty Images)

The protesters are calling for the prime minister to leave office, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic and the nation’s monarchy to undergo reform. The protests have been called in defiance of a state of emergency imposed on Thursday.

All stations of Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain mass transit system were ordered closed Saturday afternoon in an effort to thwart protests. A line of the underground MRT system was also shut, and police blocked off several roads. Organizers had called for their followers to meet at Skytrain stations pending further instructions.

Police on Friday had taken similar action to block demonstrators, but failed when protest organizers announced a last-minute switch of venue.

Friday’s rally was broken up by a large contingent of riot police backed by water cannons after at least 1,000 people had gathered. It was the first time the authorities have employed such forceful tactics against the student-led protests. Both Thursday’s and Friday’s protests were held in normally busy areas of central Bangkok.

Police took control of the rally site after about an hour, though continued to engage with some stragglers. Flash protests were launched in solidarity at several universities around the country.



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