Thousands join Bangkok’s biggest protest since 2014 coup

Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, above, has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the government headed by former military ruler Prayuth Chan-ocha. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 14 December 2019

Thousands join Bangkok’s biggest protest since 2014 coup

  • The demonstration was called a day earlier by Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
  • Thanathorn has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the current government

BANGKOK: Thousands of people joined Bangkok’s biggest protest since a 2014 coup on Saturday, after authorities in Thailand moved to ban a party that has rallied opposition to the government of former military ruler Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The demonstration, called a day earlier by Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, a 41-year-old billionaire, revived memories of the spasms of street protest that have roiled Bangkok periodically over the past two decades of turbulent politics.
But there was no sign of a major police presence or attempt to block the biggest demonstration since Prayuth seized power in 2014 in the name of ending street violence.
“This is just the beginning,” Thanathorn told the cheering crowd that spilled across walkways and stairways close to the MBK Center, in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping and business district.
“Today is a show of strength so that in future others may join us. We’re just here today as a test run. Prayuth, don’t be afraid yet. The real thing is next month.”
Thanathorn has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of the government headed by Prayuth, 65, since an election in March that the opposition said were manipulated to favor the army.
Thailand’s election panel has asked the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward Party, accusing it of infringing laws governing political parties by accepting multi-million dollar loans from Thanathorn.
Last month, the Constitutional Court found Thanathorn guilty of holding shares in a media company on the date his candidacy was registered for the election, disqualifying him as a member of parliament. Thanathorn disputed the ruling.
At the protest, demonstrators chanted “Long live democracy, dictatorship get out.”
Thanathorn earlier signed an agreement with six parties in an opposition alliance to push for changes to the constitution that was drawn up by the junta before the election.
He also won their support for the protest.
Among those parties was Pheu Thai, which won the most seats in the 500-member House of Representatives lower house but has taken a lower profile in challenging the government than Future Forward, which came third in the election.
Palang Pracharat, the pro-military party formed last year by members of the junta’s cabinet, came second. Prayuth told reporters on Friday it was inappropriate to organize a demonstration toward the end of the year.


US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 6 min 7 sec ago

US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

  • The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J
  • This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country

WASHINGTON: The United States government will pay Johnson & Johnson over $1 billion for 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine, its latest such arrangement as the race to tame the pandemic intensifies, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.
It said it would deliver the vaccine to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on a not-for-profit basis to be used after approval or emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
J&J has already received $1 billion in funding from the US government — BARDA agreed in March to provide that money for the company to build manufacturing capacity for more than 1 billion doses of the experimental vaccine.
The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J. Including the first $1 billion deal with the USgovernment, the price would be slightly higher than the $19.50 per dose that the United States is paying for the vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. and German biotech BioNTech SE.
The US government may also purchase an additional 200 million doses under a subsequent agreement. J&J did not disclose that deal’s value.
J&J plans to study a one- or two-dose regimen of the vaccine in parallel later this year. A single-shot regimen could allow more people to be vaccinated with the same number of doses and would sidestep issues around getting people to come back for their second dose.
This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country. Talks are underway with the European Union, but no deal has yet been reached.
J&J’s investigational vaccine is currently being tested on healthy volunteers in the United States and Belgium in an early-stage study.
There are currently no approved vaccines for COVID-19. More than 20 are in clinical trials.