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Thousands of anti-government protesters giving 'Hunger Games' salutes defy a ban on mass gatherings in Thailand

Thousands of anti-government protesters giving 'Hunger Games' salutes defy a ban on mass gatherings in Thailand
  • Protests have erupted in Thailand as anti-government demonstrators demand democratic reforms, the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, and curbs on the royal family's power and budget.
  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn is famous for his mistresses, crop tops, and globetrotting ways.
  • The student-led protests defied a government-issued emergency decree on Thursday, which banned large gatherings of more than five people.
  • Protesting against royal reforms is extremely dangerous in Thailand, which has some of the strictest lèse-majesté (to do wrong to majesty) laws in the world.
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In the last week, Thailand has seen some of its biggest anti-government protests in decades as thousands of students took to the streets to demand democratic reforms.

Protesters are demanding the removal of Prime Minister and former military leader Pray uth Chan-o-cha.

They are also calling for curbs on the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, a ruler famous for his mistresses, crop tops, and globetrotting ways.

Thailand has some of the strictest lèse-majesté (to do wrong to majesty) laws in the world, with some protesters facing up to 15 years in prison if charged.

Scroll down to see what is happening in the Southeast Asian country.

Pro-democracy protests have erupted again in Thailand despite a government emergency decree that has banned large gatherings.

Pro-democracy protests have erupted again in Thailand despite a government emergency decree that has banned large gatherings.
Pro-democracy protesters show the three-finger salute as they gather demanding the government to resign and to release detained leaders in Bangkok, Thailand on October 15, 2020. Reuters/Jorge Silva

Source: BBC

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The main symbol used by protesters has been the three-finger salute, similar to the one used in the popular film franchise "The Hunger Games."

The main symbol used by protesters has been the three-finger salute, similar to the one used in the popular film franchise "The Hunger Games."
Pro-democracy protesters demanding the government to resign in Bangkok, Thailand on October 15, 2020. Reuters/Jorge Silva

People have been urged to use the three-finger salute during the national anthem, which is usually played in public spaces such as train stations, twice a day.

Source: The Guardian

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The student-led protest movement has been ongoing ever since the country's prime minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, was appointed after controversial elections in 2019.

The student-led protest movement has been ongoing ever since the country's prime minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, was appointed after controversial elections in 2019.
An anti-government demonstrator skates over an image of Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during a Thai anti-government mass protest in Bangkok, Thailand, on October 14, 2020. Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Chan-o-cha, who is a former army chief, first seized power in a 2014 coup.

Source: BBC

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Protesters have since been calling for the government's dissolution and for democratic reforms.

Protesters have since been calling for the government's dissolution and for democratic reforms.
Pro-democracy protestors confront police at a rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection on October 15, 2020, in Bangkok, Thailand. Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images
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But it's not just the prime minister that people are protesting against. In recent months the demonstrators have also started calling for curbs on the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

But it's not just the prime minister that people are protesting against. In recent months the demonstrators have also started calling for curbs on the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
An image of King Maha Vajiralongkorn is seen as pro-democracy demonstrators march during an anti-government mass protest in Bangkok, Thailand on October 14, 2020. Jorge Silva/Reuters

Source: BBC

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King Vajiralongkorn reportedly fled the country months ago, spending lockdown in a four-star hotel in the Bavarian Alps with an entourage of 20 women. His absence prompted Thai resident to tweet: "Why do we need a king?" over one million times

King Vajiralongkorn reportedly fled the country months ago, spending lockdown in a four-star hotel in the Bavarian Alps with an entourage of 20 women. His absence prompted Thai resident to tweet: "Why do we need a king?" over one million times
Exterior view of the Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl. © Leuchtende Hotelfotografie/Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl

Vajiralongkorn has been the King of Thailand since his father died in 2016. With an estimated net worth of $30 billion, Vajiralongkorn is the world's wealthiest ruler as of 2020.

Before his coronation, the King married his longtime partner and personal bodyguard, Maha Vajiralongkorn, in a surprise ceremony.

However, in July, he bestowed the title of Royal Noble Consort to Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, a former army nurse believed to be another longtime girlfriend. She was later spotted wearing a crop top and piloting a plane, according to pictures released by Reuters.

Source: Insider

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Protesting against royal reforms is extremely dangerous in Thailand, which has some of the strictest lèse-majesté (to do wrong to majesty) laws in the world.

Protesting against royal reforms is extremely dangerous in Thailand, which has some of the strictest lèse-majesté (to do wrong to majesty) laws in the world.
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn presides over the annual royal ploughing ceremony at the Sanam Luang park in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 9, 2019. Anusak Laowilas/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Anyone who "defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heir-apparent or regent" in the country can face up to 15 years in prison on each charge, according to the Guardian.

Source: The Guardian

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More than 20 people have been arrested this week, including three protest leaders.

More than 20 people have been arrested this week, including three protest leaders.
A Thai police chief speaks to pro-democracy protestors while they rally on October 15, 2020, in Bangkok, Thailand. Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

Prominent protest leader Parit Chiwarak, otherwise known as Penguin, was also arrested.

"For our future, we demand three things. First, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-0-cha must resign. Second, we want to rewrite the constitution, and third, we demand reformation of the entire monarchy," Chiwarak told the Guardian last week.

Source: The Guardian

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Protesters have also been wearing white ribbons and chanting "Free our friends!" in reference to those detained in the crackdown.

Protesters have also been wearing white ribbons and chanting "Free our friends!"  in reference to those detained in the crackdown.
A protester makes a white ribbon as a symbol of peace in front of a police officer during anti-government protests in Bangkok, Thailand on October 15, 2020. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Source: BBC

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Thousands of people defied the emergency decree hours after it was issued on Thursday, gathering in Bangkok's busy Ratchaprasong intersection.

Thousands of people defied the emergency decree hours after it was issued on Thursday, gathering in Bangkok's busy Ratchaprasong intersection.
Pro-democracy protestors attend a rally at the Ratchaprasong intersection on October 15, 2020, in Bangkok, Thailand. Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images

People were chanting "release our friends" and called police "slaves of dictatorship", according to the Guardian.

Deputy police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoe said student leaders who had called for a protest on Thursday were "clearly breaking the law," the paper reported.

Source: The Guardian

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In response, a large force of police officers in riot gear were sent to the streets to advance on protesters. Although the protest was mainly peaceful, pictures from the scene did show some clashes and a handful of protesters being arrested.

In response, a large force of police officers in riot gear were sent to the streets to advance on protesters. Although the protest was mainly peaceful, pictures from the scene did show some clashes and a handful of protesters being arrested.
Police officers march in position behind riot shields in Bangkok, Thailand, on October 15, 2020. Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha TPX Images of the Day

Source: BBC

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"Like dogs cornered, we are fighting till our deaths," Panupon Jadnok, one of the protest leaders told crowds on Thursday. "We won't fall back. We won't run away. We won't go anywhere."

"Like dogs cornered, we are fighting till our deaths," Panupon Jadnok, one of the protest leaders told crowds on Thursday. "We won't fall back. We won't run away. We won't go anywhere."
Pro-democracy protesters show the three-finger salute as they gather demanding the release of detained leaders in Bangkok, Thailand on October 15, 2020. Reuters/Jorge Silva

Source: The Guardian

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