#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 7°C Tuesday 18 May 2021
Advertisement

Thai pro-democracy protesters return to streets calling for royal reforms

Protesters scaled a massive monument in the capital as they called for the abolishment of royal defamation laws.

A protest in Bangkok in August 2020.
A protest in Bangkok in August 2020.
Image: Shutterstock/Goldenhearty

THAI PRO-DEMOCRACY PROTESTERS scaled a massive Bangkok monument today, draping it in a crimson cloth and calling for the country to abolish its draconian royal defamation laws.

Momentum for the youth-led movement calling for an overhaul to Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s government has slowed in recent months, due to a fresh wave of coronavirus infections in Thailand.

But the recent detention of four prominent leaders has spurred protesters into action, bringing hundreds back to the Democracy Monument intersection in Bangkok’s historic quarter — under the close watch of scores of riot police.

The leaders were charged under the lese majeste law, which carries penalties of up to 15 years per charge if found guilty of insulting the monarchy.

“I want to stress the purpose of today’s rally is to call for 112 to be abolished,” said Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, referring to the law by its penal code section.

After rearranging flower pots around the monument to say “112″, activists draped a massive red cloth over Democracy Monument in an act of defiance.

As night fell, the protesters marched to the Royal Palace but were stopped by barricades and barbed wire surrounding the area and scores of police in full riot gear. 

Officers stood in a tense stand-off against the protesters, some of whom were wielding white shields, gas masks and helmets.

After some negotiations, authorities escorted four protest leaders to the Bangkok City Pillar Shrine, next to the Grand Palace, where they performed a Buddhist water blessing ceremony and called: “Down with feudalism, long live the people.”

“We’ve asked the spirit protecting the shrine to side with the people,” rally leader Attapon Buapat told waiting demonstrators, declaring a return to the streets in a week if their comrades are not released.

“If our demands are not met, we will raise the temperatures.”

While most of the protesters left after Attapon’s announcement, more than a dozen remained. 

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

They threw water bottles and small homemade “ping pong” bombs — around the size of a table tennis ball — at the police, who braced against the onslaught until all had dispersed by around 9 pm. 

The pro-democracy movement, which kicked off last July, is calling for reforms to the unassailable monarchy, and the abolition of the royal defamation law is one of its key demands.

Their grievances with the royals have electrified Thai society, where frank discussion about the family is taboo.

At its peak, the rallies drew tens of thousands, with demonstrators drawing inspiration from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

In November, police deployed tear gas and water cannon against protesters, using liquid laced with an irritant, and clashes left more than 40 people injured.

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (3)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel