Thailand Bans Gatherings After Protesters Heckle Royal Motorcade

SINGAPORE—Thailand issued an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than five people, seeking to end student-led protests that have grown bolder in challenging the government and the country’s powerful monarchy.

Thursday’s decree came a day after thousands of people gathered in the capital, Bangkok, and marched to the government headquarters, where they camped out overnight. At one point, as the queen’s motorcade passed, protesters jeered and chanted “the people’s taxes,” a reference to the royal family’s luxurious lifestyle.

Many young activists have expanded their targets to take aim at the wealth and secrecy of the monarchy, which is shielded from criticism by a strict lèse-majesté law that carries prison terms of up to 15 years for insulting the king or his family.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne upon the death of his widely revered father in 2016, controls a vast fortune and spends most of his time in southern Germany.

Wednesday’s events marked the royal family’s first direct exposure to the public discontent that has grown in their absence—they arrived in Thailand this week for a visit—fueled by what protesters say is an erosion of democratic freedoms, an economy crippled by coronavirus lockdowns and widening inequality. The palace hasn’t commented on the protests.

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