At least ten thousand demonstrators gathered in Bangkok on Sunday to protest against the government and demand reform of the monarchy as tension mounts in Thailand and the pro-democracy movement gains momentum.
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“At the student demonstration, there are 10,000 people,” a spokesperson for the Bangkok Metropolitan Police told AFP.
Still underway in the early evening, the rally is the largest organized in the kingdom since the 2014 coup, which brought the current Prime Minister to power.
Since last month, protests have become almost daily, led by student groups calling for reform of the main organs of power, including the monarchy, breaking a deep taboo in Thai society.
One of the busiest crossroads in the Thai capital was occupied Sunday afternoon by protesters chanting “down with dictatorship” and waving paper doves to symbolize peace.
The arrest by the authorities of three activists in the past two weeks has caused increased tension in the country. Released on bail, they are prosecuted for ten reasons, including sedition and violation of the law of health emergency.
They were told not to repeat their offenses, but one of them, Parit Chiwarak, alias “Penguin”, leader of the Students’ Union of Thailand was present at the demonstration in Bangkok on Sunday.
Thai protesters, taking the young Hong Kong people as a model, do not have a real leader and rely mainly on social networks to relay their calls to demonstrate.
Their main target has long been Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who carried out a coup in 2014 and who remained in power following contested elections in 2019.
The demonstrators are demanding his resignation, the dissolution of Parliament and the rewriting of the 2017 Constitution which gives very broad power to the 250 senators, all chosen by the army.
But last Monday, in front of some 4,000 demonstrators gathered on a Bangkok campus, the organizers had for the first time listed 10 demands to reform the monarchy, a daring act that gripped the country.
With an estimated fortune of $ 60 billion, the monarch Maha Vajiralongkorn, called Rama X, also made unprecedented changes after his ascension to the throne in 2016, taking direct control of royal assets, and placing units of the army directly under his command.
“It is a very risky affair and it is unacceptable for the majority of Thais” the Prime Minister said Thursday about the demands of the demonstrators before taking the tone of appeasement in a televised speech, calling for unity and declaring “the future belongs to the young”.
Another cause of the protests, Thailand is experiencing one of its worst economic crises since 1997 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions of Thais have lost their jobs and the crisis has highlighted the inequalities in the country’s economy, seen as primarily benefiting the pro-military elite.