Thailand has issued an emergency decree banning large gatherings in an attempt to end months-long, anti-government protests in the capital, Bangkok.
The emergency decree, which also bans the publication of sensitive news, took effect at 4 a.m. local time on Thursday.
The government cited the obstruction of a royal motorcade during protests on Wednesday as well as growing disorder, economic damage, and the risk of spreading the coronavirus as the reasons for its emergency measures.
“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” the decree said.
The emergency decree bans gatherings of five or more people and allows authorities to stop people from entering any area they designate.
It also prohibits “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.”
Shortly after the emergency decree took effect, riot police advanced behind shields on protesters who had camped outside the office of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha.
They cleared thousands of protesters from the area. Some of the protesters, who tried to resist with makeshift barricades of garbage cans, were swiftly pushed back.
Police said they had arrested about 20 people who refused to cooperate. Protest leaders Parit “Penguin” Chirawat and rights lawyer Arnon Nampa were also arrested.
After the arrests, some of the protesters began to disperse on their own.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Bangkok to rally toward the government headquarters on Wednesday. They chanted slogans at a royal motorcade passing by during the protest.
Scuffles also broke between the protesters and the supporters of the monarchy.
The protesters are calling for the resignation of the government of Prayuth, a rewriting of the constitution that helped the former coup leader hold on to power in elections last year, and an end to the harassment of dissidents.
The protests have raised concerns about potential trouble in a country that experienced a decade of street violence between the supporters and opponents of the establishment before the coup d’etat in 2014.