Protesters force their way into Thammasat University
Hundreds of protesters are now occupying the campus of Thammasat University after forcing open its main gate to begin what they claim to be the biggest rally against the Prayut government.
The protesters, led by Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Panupong Jardnok, tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with university officials for the gate to be open. They eventually forced their way in.
Panusaya and Panupong are among a group of student and political activists leading the student protests against the government.
The university had earlier announced it would not permit the campus to be used for the rally. All gates of the university had been closed since 8pm last night.
The protesters, many of them openly identifying themselves as members of the pro-Thaksin Red Shirt movement, started arriving in front of Thammasat University early this morning as authorities braced for the major anti-government rally amid rain that began dizzling since last night.
Protesters stream to the venue
Thai PBS World’s news team reported that hundreds of police personnel are keeping a close watch as more protesters arrive. Some of the protesters said they had just arrived from upcountry.
Many took shelter from the drizzle in tents or in bus stops in front of the campus, while others gathered in front of one of the gates and shook them, apparently to test its strength. A few others shouted diatribes against the Government.
At about 9am, protesters put up political posters on the university’s wall, facing Sanam Luang. Volunteer guards, wearing green armbands, joined student guards to ensure order at the protest site.
Those involved in logistic support began preparing food for protesters in make-shift kitchens. One of the cooks, former movie star Sai Charoenpura, said that she and some fellow entertainers, who didn’t want to be identified, have donated money or provided food for the protesters throughout this weekend.
A film producer, Yutthalert Sippapark, has offered his films for screening at the protest site tonight. An exhibition of his photos will also be held there.
At about 11am, Pol Colonel Worasak Pisitthabannakor, the Superintendent of Chanasongkhram police station, arrived at the front of the university, in a pickup truck equipped with a PA system. He warned protesters that they could be deemed to be in breach of the Emergency Decree and the law on public assembly, but he assured that the police will try to ensure their safety.
Police made an announcement to warn the protesters of the need for social distancing because of Covid-19.
Protest leaders have scheduled the rally to press for political changes and a reform of the monarchy to start at 2pm.