Thailand issued an emergency decree early Thursday, banning gatherings of five or more and restricting media content in an effort to put an end to protests that have taken direct aim at the once-untouchable monarchy and the Thai king in particular.
The emergency decree, announced on state television, is needed to "maintain peace and order" and put an end to "illegal public assemblies" in Bangkok, the government said. Over the summer, tens of thousands of Thais – led by young student protesters – have rallied against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and called for reforms to the Thai constitution. They have also taken aim at the Thai monarchy, which is protected by among the strictest lèse-majesté laws in the world and has for decades enjoyed divine-like status in the country.
Authorities say the decree came in response to protests Wednesday, where demonstrators raised the three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance borrowed from the Hunger Games trilogy, at a royal motorcade carrying the Thai queen. Protesters then broke through police lines and marched to Government House, the residence of the prime minister. Thousands of protesters gathered there into the night, before they were cleared by riot police in an early morning sweep.
Police also arrested several protest leaders, including 22-year old Parit Chiwarak, better known by his nickname Penguin, and human rights lawyer Anon Nampa.