Thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets of Bangkok over the weekend to demand the dissolution of parliament, a new constitution, and reform of the country’s longstanding monarchy.
Protesters are demanding a civilian-produced constitution, as the current charter was drafted by the military while King Maha Vajiralongkorn has received largely unheard-of criticism in recent months. He is accused of consolidating his own power and fortune in absentia, while residing mostly in Europe, contrary to the will of the people.
Eyewitness footage from the scene shows the sheer scale of the crowds who gathered at the country’s Democracy Monument, which commemorates the bloodless 1932 revolution which ended the absolute monarchy in the country.
Criticism of the royal family is punishable by lengthy prison sentences under Thai law, and assemblies of this scale are also illegal under emergency measures taken to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite this, Bangkok police estimate some 10,000 people attended a rally on Sunday, and some 600 police officers were deployed to maintain order, though there were no reports of arrests.
Near daily student protests have been held in recent weeks, culminating in larger, more widely-attended protests this past weekend, some of the largest anti-government protests in the country since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a coup in 2014.
Chants of “Down with dictatorship, long live democracy” rang out across the crowd as activists gave speeches over the course of eight hours.
The protests began as far back as February, when the progressive opposition Future Forward Party (FFP) was dissolved by court order.
After a months-long hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, daily student protests began again on July 18 and now appear to have gained more widespread support, despite claims of human rights abuses and concerns over the disappearance of several leading anti-government activists and critics of the monarchy.
One student leader, 22-year-old Parit Chiwarak was arrested last week and charged with sedition, assault and holding an event likely to spread disease.
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