Open restaurants before the country reopens
Protesters to the Prime Minister: Open restaurants ahead of the country’s reopening
Anti-government protesters are shifting focus from politics to the economic costs of Covid containment
Protesters show the three-finger salute as they set up a flea market near the government building for businesses and people affected by the latest Covid curbs in Bangkok. (Reuters photo)
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha was attacked by protesters on Friday over a ban on eating in restaurants, which has put thousands of people in further economic trouble.
The crowd that gathered outside the government building on Friday included familiar faces from previous rallies focused on politics. But this time they decided to emphasize more practical things.
The one-month ban on eating, which was announced without warning at midnight last Saturday, went into effect on Monday in Bangkok and the surrounding provinces. The result is a heavy burden for restaurateurs and food stand operators, who have had difficulty withdrawing customers since the third wave of Covid began in April.
Protest leader Panupong Jadnok called for the Prime Minister to reopen grocery stores to give operators a lifeline before considering reopening the country.
General Prayuth announced a plan last month to fully open the country to overseas tourism by mid-October, along with a resumption of all other regular economic activity.
General Prayuth was not present to hear the protesters’ demands. He left the government building shortly before 4 p.m. to attend a funeral, a spokesman said.
Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, another protest leader who faces 20 charges of defamation of the king in connection with his activities last year, said the protesters would be devoting themselves this month to attempts to overthrow the prime minister.
The rally was held by the Ratsadon Group and the United Front of Thammasat University and Demonstration. It began with a march along Phitsanulok Road from Uruphong Junction to the government building, with protesters unimpressed by an evening downpour.
A flea market was set up on the rally site, allowing vendors to sell groceries and other goods to generate much-needed revenue. The intention was to send a message to the Prime Minister that people should be allowed to do business again.
General Prayuth left the government building at 3:50 p.m. after a visit from the EU ambassador to Thailand, Pirkka Tapoila, who is ending his term in Thailand.
The Prime Minister reportedly attended a singing ceremony at Wat Sommanas Vihara before returning to his residence.
About 1,000 riot police cordoned off all roads leading to the government building and rolled out barbed wire, but the rally went off without incident.
At one location, a group of attendees hung figures on an overpass to represent people who had committed suicide after being jobless and closed due to lockdowns.