Thailand protests: Government declares state of emergency after demonstrators confront royal family

The Thai government has declared a state of emergency and banned gatherings of more than four people in a move to end pro-democracy protests. The order, which also outlawed online posts deemed a national security threat, was issued on Thursday after demonstrators calling for the prime minister's resignation staged a rally outside his office in Bangkok. It comes after demonstrators confronted the royal motorcade on Wednesday during a procession through Thailand's capital. Protesters are calling for reforms to the monarchy but the government have branded their demonstration "unconstitutional" and the group clashed with royalist counter-protesters on Thursday. Student activists have staged huge demonstrations since July calling for Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief who took power in a coup six years ago, to step down. Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti were confronted by protesters as they drove through Bangkok Credit: GETTY IMAGES The state of emergency allows for the seizure of "electronic communications equipment, data, and weapons suspected to cause the emergency situation", a government spokesman said. It was unclear if a protest scheduled for later on Thursday at a major Bangkok intersection would go ahead, with police warning that demonstrators "can no longer gather... as planned or they will face arrest". Tensions flared on Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators rallied around Democracy Monument in Bangkok before a scheduled afternoon drive-by of a royal motorcade carrying King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his family. While police had cordoned off most of the protesters away from the royal route, dozens were still present as the motorcade passed. Queen Suthida could be seen staring from a limousine window as protesters held up three-fingered salutes – a gesture of defiance the pro-democracy movement has borrowed from the popular Hunger Games books and films. King Maha Vajiralongkorn, pictured greeting supporters yesterday, holds great constitutional power in Thailand Credit: EPA Such overt challenges to the monarchy are unprecedented in Thailand, where the royal family's influence permeates every aspect of society. Those calls have prompted a backlash from Thailand's staunchly pro-royalist establishment. The King is the most powerful figure in Thailand and is supported by the kingdom's powerful military and billionaire clans. He spends much of his time in Europe, but he and his family have been in Thailand in recent days for an annual Buddhist merit-making ceremony. Wednesday's drive-by was the first encounter the royal family has had with the protesters. Since the protests started, dozens of activists have been arrested, charged with sedition and released on bail. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the prime minister had ordered police to press charges against "the protesters who obstructed the royal motorcade" on Wednesday. Police are preparing to stop demonstrators from protesting on Thursday  Credit: GETTY IMAGES Charges will also be pursued against "those who had acted in a way that defames the monarchy," he said in a statement. "They must face legal procedures without exception." After protesters marched to the Government House, they stayed through the night shouting for Prayut to "get out", while some camped outside. Organiser Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree reiterated the need for a rewrite of a 2017 constitution which he said was drafted by the military. "The new constitution must bring Thailand to a democratic system with the monarchy institution truly governed under it," he said. Wednesday's demonstration was intended to commemorate the 47th anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that saw 77 people killed. "This could be the last fight for Thailand's democracy," said 18-year-old Attaporn, who travelled from the kingdom's northern Pichit province to join the rally. "I have to do this if I want a better future."

Thailand protests: Government declares state of emergency after demonstrators confront royal family

The Thai government has declared a state of emergency and banned gatherings of more than four people in a move to end pro-democracy protests.

The order, which also outlawed online posts deemed a national security threat, was issued on Thursday after demonstrators calling for the prime minister's resignation staged a rally outside his office in Bangkok.

It comes after demonstrators confronted the royal motorcade on Wednesday during a procession through Thailand's capital.

Protesters are calling for reforms to the monarchy but the government have branded their demonstration "unconstitutional" and the group clashed with royalist counter-protesters on Thursday.

Student activists have staged huge demonstrations since July calling for Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief who took power in a coup six years ago, to step down.

Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn Rasmijoti were confronted by protesters as they drove through Bangkok Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The state of emergency allows for the seizure of "electronic communications equipment, data, and weapons suspected to cause the emergency situation", a government spokesman said.

It was unclear if a protest scheduled for later on Thursday at a major Bangkok intersection would go ahead, with police warning that demonstrators "can no longer gather... as planned or they will face arrest".

Tensions flared on Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators rallied around Democracy Monument in Bangkok before a scheduled afternoon drive-by of a royal motorcade carrying King Maha Vajiralongkorn and his family.

While police had cordoned off most of the protesters away from the royal route, dozens were still present as the motorcade passed.

Queen Suthida could be seen staring from a limousine window as protesters held up three-fingered salutes – a gesture of defiance the pro-democracy movement has borrowed from the popular Hunger Games books and films.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, pictured greeting supporters yesterday, holds great constitutional power in Thailand Credit: EPA

Such overt challenges to the monarchy are unprecedented in Thailand, where the royal family's influence permeates every aspect of society.

Those calls have prompted a backlash from Thailand's staunchly pro-royalist establishment.

The King is the most powerful figure in Thailand and is supported by the kingdom's powerful military and billionaire clans.

He spends much of his time in Europe, but he and his family have been in Thailand in recent days for an annual Buddhist merit-making ceremony.

Wednesday's drive-by was the first encounter the royal family has had with the protesters.

Since the protests started, dozens of activists have been arrested, charged with sedition and released on bail.

Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the prime minister had ordered police to press charges against "the protesters who obstructed the royal motorcade" on Wednesday.

Police are preparing to stop demonstrators from protesting on Thursday  Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Charges will also be pursued against "those who had acted in a way that defames the monarchy," he said in a statement.

"They must face legal procedures without exception."

After protesters marched to the Government House, they stayed through the night shouting for Prayut to "get out", while some camped outside.

Organiser Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree reiterated the need for a rewrite of a 2017 constitution which he said was drafted by the military.

"The new constitution must bring Thailand to a democratic system with the monarchy institution truly governed under it," he said.

Wednesday's demonstration was intended to commemorate the 47th anniversary of a 1973 student uprising that saw 77 people killed.

"This could be the last fight for Thailand's democracy," said 18-year-old Attaporn, who travelled from the kingdom's northern Pichit province to join the rally.

"I have to do this if I want a better future."