Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand mark the end of absolute monarchy

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Political activists from various groups in Thailand organized peaceful protests across the country on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the 1932 revolt that ended the country’s absolute monarchy.

A protester dressed in a vintage uniform raises his fist alongside images of the 1932 coup in Thailand projected onto a white screen placed by protesters in front of the democracy monument as they demand a change to the constitution on the 88th anniversary of a revolt that ended the absolute monarchy in the country, in Bangkok, Thailand, on June 24, 2020. REUTERS / Jorge Silva

Demonstrations come as more Thais speak out against a military-dominated political system, and monuments to the establishment of democracy have disappeared from public spaces here.

The 1932 revolt, led by a group of civilian bureaucrats and military officers known as the Popular Party, has in recent years become a symbolic date for pro-democracy groups.

Thailand was under military rule for five years until an election last year that kept former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in power in a vote that opposition parties said was rigged. Prayuth and the Thai courts reject claims that the elections were rigged.

In one of the protests at the Bangkok Democracy Monument, 30-40 activists played a large-screen video depicting the speech made by the leaders of the People’s Party after overthrowing the government of King Prajadhipok and marking the beginning of the first constitution of thailand.

“Eighty-eight years ago today, at dawn, the Popular Party took power and changed the system of government to a democracy,” said pro-democracy activist Anon Nampa.

In another planned protest in parliament, another group of activists will demand amendments to the current constitution written by the recent board.

“We want to use the anniversary of the revolt to express our point about the problematic nature of the current constitution drafted by the military,” said Anusorn Unno of the Campaign Committee for a Popular Constitution.

Police say they are monitoring protests in at least 12 provinces. Thailand has banned large public gatherings during the coronavirus emergency, but the authorities did not block the protests.

Speaking Tuesday, Prayuth did not directly address the protests, but told people “do not violate the monarchy and do not violate the law.”

While Thailand is officially a constitutional monarchy, King Maha Vajiralongkorn wields immense power, and insulting him is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Reports of Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Michael Perry

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