Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand returned Thursday to the capital’s commerce district, staging something akin to a Road reasonable to cause attention to their contention that the country’s monarchy holds too much power and influence.
Their rally on the city’s Silom Street used to be billed as a counterpoint to a fashion show being held Thursday evening by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, a daughter of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The princess is a fashion designer and has several shops at malls and shopping arcades in Bangkok selling her luxury goods.
A large crowd that gathered after working hours took over a portion of the Road, having a look at a displays of artwork and posters, serious and satirical, and listening to mostly impromptu speeches.
Sarcasm and satire have played a major role in recent protests, as used to be the case again Thursday as a red carpet used to be unrolled in the street to serve as a fashion runway for women and men to vamp in front of an amused crowd, steadily making fun of the king’s gestures and appearance.
The student-led protesters have been holding rallies nearly on a daily basis, attracting crowds on short notice that occasionally exceed 10,000.
They would like Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, the charter to be amended to make it more democratic, and reforms to make the monarchy’s activities more translucent and accountable.
Prayuth first became prime minister in a military government after staging a coup as army commander in 2014, and continued in office final year after a general election held under a new charter and other laws enacted all through military rule to disadvantage existing political parties.
Prayuth has said he’s going to not leave the job under pressure, but his government has indicated it is amenable to have Parliament believe amending the charter.
The protest movement also charges that King Vajiralongkorn wields an inordinate amount of power in what is nominally a democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The palace controls a fortune that is estimated to be no less than $40 billion, making it the world’s richest royal circle of relatives.
The monarchy has long been regarded as an untouchable institution, revered by a large a part of the population and secure by a lese majeste law that mandates a three-to-15-year jail term for anyone found guilty of defaming the monarch and his instant circle of relatives.
The criticism of the royal institution by the protest leaders, low-key to start with but now more and more outspoken, has stunned many Thais, since the subject has long been one not discussed in public.
On Tuesday, protesters rallied out of doors the German Embassy to present a letter to the ambassador asking his government to enquire if King Vajiralongkorn is carrying out political activities all through his frequent visits to Germany.
Thai royalists have recently been holding counter-demonstrations, but so far they have got lacked the numbers and enthusiasm of the pro-democracy activists. After a recent attack on student protesters by several attendees of a royalist rally in Bangkok, there are concerns that more violence could break out.
Chonticha “Lukkate” Changrew, a protest leader, said Thursday that it’s time to ask the government how the students’ peaceable rallies will be secure by the state, “how they’re going to regulate and stop the people who try to provoke, to use violence against us.”
King Vajiralongkorn up to now week has made several abnormal public appearances, walking in conjunction with Queen Suthida and other members of his circle of relatives to greet crowds of faithful monarchists who gathered to see him. These events have been captured on smart phone videos and spread widely on social media.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)
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