Bangkok protesters wearing yellow shirts rally in support of monarchy

Clay Curtis
October 28, 2020

The PM has struggled to quell the protest movement, forcing him to withdraw a state of emergency in the capital within a week of its imposition and asking protesters to "take a step back" to de-escalate the situation. "It's hard to imagine him being convinced to "retire" from the scene, relinquish day to day control over the kingdom or live out the rest of his days as a true constitutional monarch". "I stand firm in my principles and beliefs". Did you forget all the things that happened before I came in?

Thailand's parliament opened Monday for a special session to discuss the growing youth-led pro-democracy movement, which is demanding Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha's resignation and reforms to the ultra-powerful monarchy.

Political protest is nothing new in Thailand, and its past 15 years have been defined by it.

Anti-government protesters have been taking to the streets nearly every day.

And like clockwork, the courts or the military could be counted on to intervene. He has put less emphasis than others on calls for royal reform.

The government will work out the next steps in order to set up the panel, Prayuth said, following the two-day parliamentary session.

Many royalists believe the student protesters are being manipulated by older activists with their own political agendas. In many cases, they were led by local civil servants.

The party shocked the establishment by winning the third-most seats. But Future Forward looked like it had room to grow.

"Very courageous, very fearless, very good for such a clear expression", read a comment from protest leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree.

The students, already upset at what they saw as an undemocratic constitution that shifted power away from elected politicians to appointed bodies aligned with the military, took to the streets.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the students retreated.

It sought to defuse tensions, as pro-democracy activists have been calling for a new government, a new constitution and monarchical reforms since July.

Pro-democracy activists display a placard with Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s head attached to a cockroach
Pro-democracy activists display a placard with Thai prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s head attached to a cockroach

Protesters' criticism of the royal institution has irked conservative Thais.

While shocking to many, it emboldened others.

Prayuth also lifted a state of emergency that he'd imposed a week earlier that made the protest rallies illegal.

"I was numbed, dumbstruck, and feared for my life", Mr. Bunkueanun recalled.

The final demand on changes to the monarchy is the most ambitious. Multiple opposition parties used the parliamentary session to call for Prayut's resignation, with Pheu Thai secretary Prasert Jantararuangthong saying it would "solve all problems".

"Who is really behind this?" said businessman Sathit Segal, who also played a leadership role in 2014. The German government has said it would be unacceptable to conduct politics from there.

The protesters also asked Germany to clarify if King Vajiralongkorn will be liable to pay inheritance tax given his long stay in the European country and investigate the human rights record of the monarch and his courtiers, a copy of the letter released by the pro-democracy groups show.

The government is honest in solving the problem and committed to following the law in doing so, he told reporters.

The government has so far seemed indecisive about how to deal with the protests, torn between trying to placate or punish those involved. "We are very touched", he posted on social media.

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"The government for now still has the upper hand", she said. "If we can not win this time, we still have planted the seed of criticism of the ruling elite and monarchy in the people's minds". AP journalists Tassanee Vejpongsa and Busaba Sivasomboon contributed.

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