Bangkok: In the third month of anti-government protests in Thailand, up to 10,000 protesters marched to the prime minister’s office on Wednesday to demand his resignation. They were met by the pro-government royalist supporters at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument. This stand-off between opponents and proponents of the establishment represents a long running conflict within Thai population.
The opponents of the regime demand the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who acquired power through a coup in 2014. They also demand amendments to the constitution, along with reforms to power allotted to the king. Historically, criticism to the monarchy is considered taboo.
As reported by Reuters, protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chirawat said while addressing the protesters: “Have faith in democracy. We cannot fall back.”
On the same day, hordes gathered to pay respects to the King Maha Vajiralongkorn during his rare motorcade route through the city. The king spends the majority of his time in Germany.
During the protests, scuffles occurred between the protestors and police, resulting in a least 21 arrests. “The protesters may not have observed the law today so police had to act to bring order and didn’t act disproportionately,” government spokesperson Anucha Burapachai told Reuters.
Demonstrator chanted for the release of their friends and showed their dissent through the three-fingered salute against the establishment. On the day, the top trending hashtag on social media in Thailand also insulted the monarchy. Insulting the monarchy is against the law in Thailand, and punishable by up to 15 years in prison. However, the prime minister stated earlier this year that the king has given reprieved from punishment for it for the time being.
The protesters stated that they do not demand the outright abolition of the monarchy, but want a reduction in the king’s powers under the constitution. They also want the reversal of an order that places the palace fortunes as well as a number of army units under the king’s control.
While many in Thailand continue to support the traditional institute of the monarchy, newer generations are increasingly vocal about the need for constitutional reform. The current demonstrations of anti-monarchy and anti-establishment sentiment are unprecedented in recent times in Thailand.