The military coup in Myanmar has revived pro-democracy demonstrations in neighbouring Thailand.
Thousands of Thais, including students, small business-owners and professionals, emerged in downtown Bangkok to protest the arrest of four prominent activists.
The four, one of whom is a prominent human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa, were charged with royal defamation under article 112 of the Thai criminal code for comments they made at protests calling for a reform of the monarchy last year. Denied bail, they face decades in prison. Each count of lèse-majesté carries a sentence of 15 years.
Demonstrators marked their displeasure by bashing pots and pans together, a form of protest borrowed from neighbouring Myanmar. Clattering pots and pots together is traditionally a means of expelling evil from the home.
“The pots-and-pans theme is inspired by Myanmar,” said one protester. “But it’s also a symbolic gesture from the Thai people to show that they’re starving, because pots and pans to some are tools to earn a living. And now, they have nothing left.”
“We’re in this together,” another protester said to UCA News. “We need democracy in Thailand and people need democracy in Burma. It’s not the job of an army to run a country and oppress people.”
Amid reports of escalating police violence in the country, Myanmar’s military face a new raft of sanctions from the US a.
Yesterday, US President Joe Biden signed and executive order imposed strict economic restrictions on the country’s military leaders.
In brief remarks on Wednesday, the President outlined the list of economic sanctions and called on the military to “relinquish” the power it had taken, release Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and respect last year’s election result. The election, which saw Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy win with a landslide, was declared fraudulent by the military, a claim refuted by Myanmar’s electoral commission.
Since the coup last week, concerns have arisen over the escalating force used by Myanmar’s security forces. At first, Police used water cannons to disperse the thousands protesting the coup. But they have since resorted to using rubber bullets and live ammunition to deter the protesters gathering in city’s across the country.
At least two people have been hospitalised in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw as a result. A woman was allegedly shot in the back of the head with live ammunition, while a man was treated for a chest wound from a rubber bullet.
Biden has frozen US-based assets of Myanmar’s military, which amount to approximately $1 billion. The assets of those linked to the coup or the military are hereby “blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.” So too are contributions or “provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit” of those mentioned above.
“The unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of noncitizens” who meet the criteria mentioned above, the order read, “would be detrimental to the interests of the United States.” Any such entry has been suspended, unless the Secretary of State or of Homeland Secfuirty approve it.
In his statement on Wednesday, Biden maintained that economic restrictions would be restricted to the military and its hierarchy. The US will be “maintaining [its] support for healthcare, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people directly,” he said.
In his statement about the coup last week, Cardinal Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon declared his scepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions.
“[They] risk collapsing the economy, throwing millions into poverty. Engaging the actors in reconciliation is the only path,” he said.
“Peace is possible. Peace is the only way and democracy is the only light to that path.”