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Thousands of Thai protesters defy ban with demonstration

BANGKOK: Thousands of Thai protesters gathered yesterday in defiance of a sweeping crackdown after authorities moved to crush months of pro-democracy demonstrations by imposing emergency powers and rounding up leading activists.

Protesters chanted "Prayut get out!" and "Free our friends!" as they confronted police at Ratchaprasong, a busy junction in central Bangkok, despite a new decree that bans gatherings of more than four people - aimed at quelling student-led demonstrations.

The government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, a former army chief who initially took power in a 2014 coup, has been the target of the protesters, but they have also taken aim at Thailand's unassailable monarchy.

After the emergency measures were announced early yesterday, riot police dispersed hundreds of protesters who camped overnight outside the prime minister's office.

Later, student leaders took to social media to urge supporters to take to the streets.

"Come out in force - only giving moral support from home is not enough," said the Free Youth Movement, which had organised massive demonstrations in recent months.

That call was answered by thousands, including high school students, who covered the ID tags on their uniforms with duct tape.

Three top activists were among nearly two dozen arrested earlier yesterday, including Mr Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, according to Ms Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul - another prominent figure whose own detention was live-streamed on Facebook. - AFP

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