Biggest Thai protest in years cheers calls for monarchy reform

Protesters cemented the plaque near the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Sept 20 2020

Earlier in the day, protesters cemented a plaque near the Grand Palace in the area known as Sanam Luang, or Royal Field.

On Thursday, Prayuth warned the protesters against raising the risks of spreading the novel coronavirus and urged them to put the health crisis before politics.

Each of Thailand's 19 constitutions of modern times has stated, at the top, that: "The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship" and that "no person shall expose the King to any sort of accusation or action".

Thailand has seen near-daily protests for the past two months led by student activists calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who masterminded a 2014 coup.

It commemorated the end of royal absolutism in 1932 after a revolution that transitioned the kingdom into a constitutional monarchy.

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".

Some factions within the movement - including the organisers of the weekend demonstrations - have also called for frank discussion of the monarchy.

The young woman who delivered the manifesto, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, has said their intention "is not to destroy the monarchy but to modernise it, to adapt it to our society".

The original was embedded in the ground of Bangkok's Royal Plaza for decades before it mysteriously vanished in 2017 - which activists say is emblematic of a wider whitewashing of Thai political history.

Thousands of demonstrators who occupied a historic field in Thailand's capital overnight continued with their rally on Sunday to support the demands of a student-led protest movement for new elections and reform of the monarchy.

Prayuth has said the government would allow protests but that demands for reform of the monarchy were not acceptable.

The crowd were a disparate batch.

There were skits and music, and speakers gave fiery speeches late Saturday accusing the government of incompetence, corruption in the military and failing to protect women's rights.

Saturday saw one of the biggest protests in years, with thousands defying authorities to demand change. At least 8,000 police officers were reportedly deployed for the event.

"I hope the people in power will see the importance of the people", student leader Panupong "Mike" Jadnok, told the crowd, according to Reuters.

The protesters want Parliament dissolved, an election to be held and the constitution to be changed.

The prime minister took power in 2014 during an election that some have called a "coup" and won a disputed election previous year, the BBC reported.

September 19 is the anniversary of the coup against the populist then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

Protests were re-energised in June when prominent pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit went missing in Cambodia, where he had been in exile since the 2014 military coup. "This is our dream".

But authorities have arrested more than two dozen activists, charging them with sedition before releasing them on bail. They had been denied permission to enter the Thammasat University campus and Sanam Luang on Saturday, but when they pushed, the authorities retreated, even though police warned them that they were breaking the law.



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