Sunday’s protest was the largest anti-government rally since the military took power six years ago and came after a month of near-daily protests by students across the country who drew much of their manifesto. society, he reports CNN.
Anger among young people has intensified since the March 2019 elections, after which General Prayut Chan-o-cha was re-elected for another four years as prime minister. On Sunday, young and old called for democratic reforms, a change in the constitution drafted by the military and the dissolution of parliament.
“I am delighted to see so many people join the protest today,” said Arnon Nampa, one of the crowd leaders. “The movement has grown, it’s not just the group of young people – as you can see, there are more elderly people, and some of them have even taken part in the protest with their families.”
Nampa, a human rights lawyer, was briefly arrested and detained on August 7 for allegedly revolting in a previous protest in which he participated.
“I am not afraid, I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time. The court released me on bail and I should not protest anymore, but that does not mean that I cannot exercise my rights under the Constitution,” he said.
A small but increasingly vocal group is calling for the reform of the monarchy – a radical idea in Thailand, where the powerful royal institution is seen as being by divine right. The country has some of the strictest laws on insulting the monarchy, and defaming the king, queen or royal house can mean a 15-year prison sentence.
The law has been increasingly used as a political instrument, given that ordinary Thai citizens – but also the government – can make such accusations on behalf of the king.
Among those who felt on their own skin the rigors of this law is a man accused of appreciating with a “like” a Facebook page considered an insult to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and that he posted a “sarcastic” photo with his dog.
But the grievances that have been whispered so far are being transmitted these days publicly, through loudspeakers, to thousands of listeners. Protesters express disappointment with Thai government institutions.
“The message is very radical and could be a turning point,” said Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, commenting on calls for royal reform. Pavin, himself an exiled Thai dissident, says that Thailand “has long had a tradition of putting the monarchy above all others. The monarchy is revered, you must love it unconditionally.”
Historical protests in Thailand. Does the monarchy associated with divinity disappear?
Although absolute monarchy was abolished in Thailand in 1932, the monarch still has significant political influence.
On August 10, another protest at Thammasat University in Bangkok supported a series of 10 demands for reform to ensure a genuine constitutional monarchy, in which the monarch respects the Constitution.
King Bhumibol, who ruled for 70 years until his death in 2016, was loved by many in the country. He was seen as a paternal figure, stable throughout the decades of political turmoil, because he helped improve the lives of Thais and exercised his authority in accordance with moral standards.
His son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who claimed the throne in 2016 and was crowned in May 2019, does not have the same moral authority. Due to the multiple situations that qualify as offensive to the monarch, the press cannot even report contextual data about the Thai monarch.
Experts say that until this massive protest, demands for reform of the monarchy were made only by extremist groups. Now the protesters are changing the game and talking publicly and openly about such issues.
“The protests in Thailand are historic because this is the first time in Thailand’s history that demonstrators have called for such reforms,” said Paul Chambers, a lecturer and special adviser at the ASEAN Center for Community Studies at Naresuan University.
“It is important to understand that from now on, the reform of the monarchy will be an increasingly valid demand among Thai demonstrators.”
Observers say this is a crucial time for Thailand. Requests to reform the monarchy could attract large numbers of protesters, and too much pressure could provoke a violent backlash or military repression, which could eventually serve to further support the move.
In July, Prime Minister Prayut said he was “concerned and concerned about the move” and warned protesters that he was breaking the law by violating the monarchy.
“I am with children, young people and university students and I also share their parents’ care for them. But there must be vigilance about the violations, I think people will not tolerate and allow such an incident to happen again. ” said the prime minister about the protests.
Although no protesters have been arrested for charges against the monarchy, at least two protest leaders – Nampa and Parit Chiwarak, the main leader of the Thai Students’ Union – have been arrested on other charges and later released.
Protesters’ anger has been fueled by a multitude of injustices: from military takeover, a prolonged state of emergency due to the coronavirus – which they say is used to stifle political opposition and free speech – to a declining economy that offers them prospects. little work, as well as the disappearance of democracy activists living in exile.
Organizers of the protests, a coalition of student groups called Free People, called for an end to the military dictatorship and government that was not elected by the people on Sunday. The abrupt transfer of power in 2014 was the 12th time the military has taken over Thailand since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932.
Protesters shouted “dictatorship must be destroyed” and “democracy will prosper” and called on the authorities to stop intimidating those taking to the streets to exercise their democratic rights.
In the 2019 elections, young people left their mark and voted for new, progressive, pro-democracy parties. However, their efforts to refresh the political scene were thwarted in part by a military-designed constitution that allowed generals to rule the Senate, led by an unelected prime minister.
While the ruling military coalition has vowed to restore order in the nation shaken by decades of coups and political crises, many in the country believe the Prayut government has done very little to improve the economic outlook, restore democracy or to give confidence to the people.