BANGKOK – Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand rallied again on Saturday, promoting a diversity of causes and taking an opportunity to display their rejection of the country’s power structure directly to the monarch.
Some 20 groups called the rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument under the name “Mob Fest” as the latest in a series of protests calling for significant reforms in government. Secondary school students, women’s right advocates and LGBTQ activists were among them.
The core demands of the student-led protest movement are that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha step down, the constitution be amended to make it more democratic, and the monarchy be reformed to be made more accountable.
The movement has put pressure on Prayuth’s government, which after failing to stop it through the use of police force has now scheduled a session of Parliament for Tuesday and Wednesday to debate changes to the constitution.
The protest movement, anticipating that the lawmakers will not take substantive action, has already called what it expects will be its biggest march so far for Nov. 21.
The demand over the monarchy is the most controversial one because the royal institution is traditionally regarded as the heart and soul of the nation, and to be treated with the utmost respect. It is protected by a law that makes defaming the monarch punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The army, a major influence in Thai politics, has declared defense of the monarchy to be one of its main duties, and many ordinary citizens also regards it with devotion.
The protest movement, however, has prioritized the issue of reforming the monarchy because it believes that the institution holds too much power and that change is the key to establishing true democracy. So they are undertaking their unprecedented challenge even at the risk of violent blowback from hardcore royalists.