Thailand declares state of emergency, bans gathering of more than four people

Thailand declares a state of emergency in Bangkok, early on Thursday after thousands of protesters surrounded the Government house in Bangkok.

The protests have been active for months led by young demonstrators.

The emergency decree, which bans gatherings of more than four people, took effect at 4 a.m. and comes just as the country is attempting to rev up its coronavirus-hit economy. Analysts worry that further turmoil could undermine that recovery.

“It is very important to have urgent measures to fix this and halt this conduct effectively so the law is respected and the public is in order,” said the government’s announcement, published under the name of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The protesters are demanding for the resignation of Prayuth and his cabinet, constitutional changes drafted by representatives of the people, and reform of the monarchy led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn under the constitution — but not its abolition.

Thailand has been under a state of emergency since March to control COVID-19 — and has largely succeeded at doing so. The country has recorded a modest 3,652 cases, with 59 deaths, though the near-stoppage of global travel has hammered the tourism-reliant economy. Gross domestic product slumped 12.2% on the year in the second quarter.

Although the coronavirus restrictions already barred large gatherings, the authorities until now opted not to impose strict controls on the youth-led demonstrations that had gained steam since July.

Thursday’s emergency declaration also bars the “publication of news, other media and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”