Young activists take on powerful monarchy and pro-army leaders in what could be a ‘new turning point’ for Thai politics.
Openly challenging the rule of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, thousands of protesters have marched in Bangkok for the second straight day to present demands that include a call for reforms to curb his powers.
Protesters have grown bolder during two months of demonstrations calling for reform of the monarchy, as well as for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military government leader, and a new constitution and elections-dominated establishment.
Criticising the monarchy has long been taboo, and is illegal under lese-majeste laws.
The king is not in Thailand, and the Grand Palace made no immediate comment.
The marchers were blocked by hundreds of unarmed police manning crowd-control barriers, but protest leaders declared a victory after saying Royal Guard police had agreed to pass on their demands to police headquarters.
“Our greatest victory in the two days is to show that ordinary people like us can send a letter to royals,” Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak told the crowd.
The police made no immediate comment.
Protesters also announced on Sunday that they will hit the streets anew on Thursday, and mount a major strike on October 14, the anniversary of the 1973 student uprising.
BREAKING: Next protest called for Sept. 24 in front of Parliament to protest any charter amendment that neglects to reform provisions on the monarchy's powers. #ThailandProtest2020 #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฎร #KE pic.twitter.com/K3iiTJD8la
— Khaosod English (@KhaosodEnglish) September 20, 2020
Shortly after sunrise on Sunday, protesters cemented a plaque near the Grand Palace in Bangkok in the area known as Sanam Luang, or Royal Field.
It reads: “At this place, the people have expressed their will: That this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”
Police did not intervene. Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the police would not use violence against protesters and it was up to the police to determine and prosecute any illegal speech.
“Down with feudalism, long live the people,” protesters chanted.
A similar plaque had been removed without explanation from outside one of the royal palaces in 2017, after Vajiralongkorn took the throne.
That plaque, commemorating the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, was replaced by one with a pro-monarchist slogan.