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

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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.SEE ALSO: Images of war: 2-weeks of brutal fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan left hundreds dead before ceasefire declared
Pro-democracy protests have erupted again in Thailand despite a government emergency decree that has banned large gatherings.

Source: BBC
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.”

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
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.

 Chan-o-cha, who is a former army chief, first seized power in a 2014 coup. 
Source: BBC
Protesters have since been calling for the government’s dissolution and for democratic reforms.

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.

Source: BBC
 
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

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
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.

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

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

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

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
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.

Source: BBC
“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.”

Source: The Guardian

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