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Thai protesters take to streets in new show of defiance

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Hundreds of Thai anti-government protesters demonstrated in Bangkok on Sunday, again defying a ban on protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the powerful monarchy.

Demonstrations have persisted despite the arrest of dozens of protesters and their leaders, the use of water cannon and shutdowns on much of Bangkok’s metro rail system in a bid to quell over three months of street action.

Protesters moved quickly from point to point, posting different sites for possible demonstrations on social media.

Pro-democracy protesters flash three-finger salute during an anti-government protest in Bangkok, Thailand. EPA-EFE/NARONG SANGNAK

“We will stay until it’s over or move to another location with other activists,” said Dee, 25, one of several dozen protesters at Asok, one of the busiest interchanges in Bangkok. Hundreds gathered at the Victory Monument, nearly 5 km (3 miles)away by road.

Protesters at Asok put up handwritten up notices on the shuttered station that read “Does licking the boots of the dictator taste good?” and other using coarser language.

A few police gathered on the other side of the interchange but did not immediately intervene.

“We are committed to maintain peace and order. In order to do so we are bound by laws, international standards, human rights.” police spokesman Kissana Phathanacharoen told a news conference.

Protesters say Prayuth engineered last year’s election to keep power he seized in a 2014 coup – an accusation he denies.

The demonstrations have also become more openly critical of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy, breaking a longstanding taboo, demanding curbs to its powers despite potential jail terms of up 15 years for anyone insulting the king.

The Royal Palace has made no comment on the protests but the king has said Thailand needed people who love the country and the monarchy.

The government banned demonstrations in Bangkok on Thursday.

During demonstrations by tens of thousands of people at multiple points across Bangkok on Saturday, protesters painted a flag on the road with “Republic of Thailand” written across it. The writing was painted out overnight.

Across Thailand, demonstrations were being organised in at least 19 other provinces in solidarity on Sunday. Solidarity protests were also being held or planned in Taiwan, Denmark, Sweden, France, the United States and Canada.

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