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Thai PM urges protesters to give up confrontation

Thai PM urges protesters to give up confrontation
Pro-democracy activists flash three-fingered salutes at Victory Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday. (AP)
BANGKOK, OCT 21 (AP) | Publish Date: 10/21/2020 12:08:10 PM IST

Thailand’s prime minister on Wednesday pleaded with his countrymen to resolve their political differences through Parliament, as student-led protests seeking to bring his government down continued for an eighth straight day.

“The only way to a lasting solution for all sides that is fair for those on the streets as well as for the many millions who choose not to go on the streets is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said, according to an English-language text released of a taped speech broadcast Wednesday night.

Demonstrations have continued daily in a movement that calls for Prayuth to step down, for a more democratic constitution and for reforms to the monarchy — a revered institution traditionally treated as sacrosanct in Thailand.

The government on Tuesday approved a request to recall Parliament for a special session on Oct. 26-27 to deal with the political pressures from the protests.

Prayuth offered a concession to protesters, saying he would promptly lift the state of emergency he declared in Bangkok last week “if there are no violent incidents.” Withdrawing the emergency decree has been one of the protesters’ demands. But there was a fresh opportunity for clashes, as shortly before the speech was aired, protesters began marching to Government House, the prime minister’s offices. Police blocked the streets around the area.

“While I can listen to and acknowledge the demands of protesters, I cannot run the country based on protester or mob demands,” Prayuth said.

He said some protesters had staged “brutal attacks” against police at a rally last Friday, but acknowledged that many others, “while they may be breaking the law, were still peaceful, well-meaning people who are genuine in their desire for a better society and a better nation.” 

 Prayuth decried the violence, but also said the use of water cannons by riot police to break up Friday’s rally was not a way “to get to a better society.” He ended his remarks with a plea: “Let us respect the law and parliamentary democracy, and let our views be presented through our representatives in Parliament.” 

 The demonstrations have been carrying on even though many top protest leaders have been detained and the state of emergency bans public gatherings of more than four people.

Even the forcible dispersion of Friday’s rally failed to faze protesters, who appeared in equal or greater numbers on subsequent days.

From Friday through Tuesday, police did not confront the protesters directly, instead trying to disrupt their gatherings with shutdowns of Bangkok’s mass transit systems and by seeking to block their online organizing activities.

The calls for reform of the monarchy have galled conservative Thais. Royalists have stepped up their presence online and held a small rally Wednesday in Bangkok where some violence broke out, There were bigger royalist rallies in several other provinces. 

 

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