Thailand’s unprecedented uprising is holding people back against the King

The royal mansion is where King Maha Wazirlongkorn of Thailand was born and in the same place, as Crown Prince, he accepted the invitation to the crown in 2016, following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, four years ago on Tuesday.

Vizier ongcorn – who has spent most of his time abroad – returned to Thailand this week for royal duties.

On Tuesday, a scuffle broke out between anti-monarchist protesters and police at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, which is becoming a meeting point during months of protests. Police said 21 people have been arrested.

Protesters partially blocked the road near the monument and erected barricades, which police tried to remove.

Later, Vajiralongkorn’s fleet repulsed past opponents for the first time. Demonstrators chanted “Free our friends” and held three finger salutes from Hunger Games movies – a symbol of protest.

The deputy police spokesman confirmed to police that the protesters had been arrested for protesting without permission and for violating the “Public Assembly Act”.

Protesters gathered at the memorial on Wednesday and planned to march towards the Prime Minister’s Office and camp there. If they move forward they may face confrontation with pro-imperialist groups who have planned anti-government protests.

Experts say this week could be a water moment for the ongoing protest movement, which is demanding a new constitution, the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of Prime Minister Priyat Chan-o-cha, as well as an end to intimidation by government critics. Many are also calling for a true constitutional monarchy under the democratic system.

Opposition leaders are expecting a large turnout on Wednesday, but there are questions about whether they are pushing hard to reform the monarchy and whether people will take to the streets during the sensitive time and the October rains. King is in the city, it was late King’s Memorial Day and Wednesday marks the anniversary of the 1973 uprising against military dictatorship.

King Maha Vajirlongkorn of Thailand lights candles on October 10, 2020 at the Wat Ratchabofit in Bangkok, attending a Buddhist ceremony to mark the 2020 Kathina festival.

“I expect the government to control this protest very strictly,” said Panchada Sirivannabud, an associate professor of politics in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Mahidol University.

Those seeking monarchical reform are risking long prison sentences. Thai citizens expect to worship without question and criticize the king, queen or heir, punishable by some of the world’s strictest lease majestic laws.

But those prohibitions are breaking down. What started out as anti-government student-led rallies in cities across the country has since evolved into a movement attracting a wider cross-section of society. The August 16 Gust protests in Bangkok drew an estimated 10,000 people, and thousands came out again in mid-September, with protesters putting up placards near the Grand Palace that read, “Here, people declare that this place belongs to the people, not the king.”

“It’s not now or never. The root cause of political problems has arisen from this institution, we just couldn’t dance around and ignore it any more,” said 21-year-old student Panusya Sethijirvatanakul, who has become a central figure. The new student movement. “Otherwise we are going to end up in this same vicious political cycle again. Revolts after being endorsed by the King.”

Leader of the Opposition Panusaya "Rung" Sithijiravattanakul (C) salutes the three-fingered Hunger Games during a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok on September 20, 2020.

A direct challenge

It was the night of August when Panusaya, known by the nickname Rung, first took to the stage and gave a 10-point list of demands for reform in the monarchy.

The demands included the king being held accountable for the constitution, defaming the monarchy, the new constitution, abolishing royal offices, ousting the military-led government, and repealing laws against disbanding the king’s royal bodyguards.

He told CNN, “I almost broke down several times while reading the statement. I couldn’t feel my legs and my hands.” “I was terrified of the crowd’s reaction that night.”

But the crowd did not say goodbye. Panusaya struck the nerve.

Although full monarchy ended in 1932, the king of Thailand still wields considerable political influence. The image of the former king Bhumibol was carefully presented to him for the introduction of a stable father, who was ruled by Buddhist principles for many decades of political instability, and who worked for the betterment of the lives of ordinary people with great moral authority.

Read a list of demands of Panusya Sithijiravattanakul during a pro-democracy rally at Thammasat University on August 10, 2020

Thailand is no stranger to political upheaval and bloody protests. There have been 13 successful armies since 1932, with current Prime Minister and former army chief Priyat Chan-o-cha taking power in 2014.

Bhumibol established close ties with these previous military rulers, giving them legitimacy in return for the monarchy’s enduring support.

Panusaya and his opposition group, the United Front for Democracy and Demonstration (UFTD), say this way of governing is unconstitutional. On September 19, she stood up again and read the list of amendments addressed to the king personally. The next day, despite thousands of people remaining, the group handed over the demands to the police, with the aim of conveying them to the king’s advisers, the Privy Council.

He said, “I wanted him to know what he wanted from us and he would listen to our complaints. I also wanted people to know that they have every right to speak to the king. Everyone should be equal.”

Bhumibol was truly loved by many in the country, while his son, King Vajirolongkorn, who was crowned in May 2019, did not have equal moral rights.

Vazirolongkorn is believed to have spent most of his time abroad and has been absent from public life in Thailand because of the coronavirus epidemic in the country.

During a pro-government and pro-monarchy rally in Bangkok on July 30, 2020, protesters held portraits of King Maha Vajirlongkorn of Thailand and his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Last week, Germany’s foreign minister told parliament that Wazirolongkorn should not run politics from a European country.

While Thailand has had success in its coronavirus outbreak, the economic effects have weighed heavily. Opponents, who say the flinting ring economy gives them little employment prospects, have begun investigating King’s immense wealth and power.

Vajiralongkorn has strengthened his power by expanding his designated military unit, the Kings Guard. It has also significantly increased its personal wealth – an amendment to the Crown Property Act that allows the transfer of billions of dollars of royalty held by the Thai Crown directly to its control, and shares in various Thai groups – including Siam Cement Public Company and Siam Commercial Bank Public Company. – Named after the King. The royal budget has also increased significantly.

“In terms of official power, he has become the most powerful king since 1932,” said Pavin Chachavalpong, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies. “Although his father had immense power, he used that power mostly through proxies. (Wazirilongkorn) becomes more powerful, because he uses his power by himself.”

Comprehensive update

Reform of the monarchy has become an increasingly central demand but protests for greater democratic freedoms, including LGBTQ and women’s rights, as well as education and economic reform, are a major issue.

Activists say they are fed up with injustices such as the military’s continued hold on power by the constitution, the prolonged coronavirus state of crisis – which they say is being used to stifle political opposition and free speech – and the disappearance of democracy activists. In exile.

High school students also joined the protests, refusing to stand for the national anthem in schools and saluting with three fingers.

The Panchayats of Mahidol University said it was important that the younger generation “do not see their future.”

“We haven’t seen this in 40 years,” he said. “They want to tell what’s going on in their lives.”

During a protest in Bangkok on October 2, 2020, students give a three-finger salute to Samson School for less stringent school rules, more tolerance and respect.

Much of his anger has been directed at Prime Minister Priyat, whose military-drafted constitution enabled him to secure the PM’s job in March 2019 through a military-appointed Senate.

Young people voted for progressive new parties on these first elections after the coup and made their place in the hope of changing the old power structures that favored a few affluent classes.

When the pro-democracy popular Future Forward Party – which won the third-highest number of votes in the election – was ordered to disband in February, young protesters took to the streets to protest the flash-mob-style, calling the move democratic.

“We were outraged by the decision,” said Panusaya, who helped organize one such protest.

“Like people, I lost the fight again,” he said.

Last month, the opposition group Free People led about 1,000 protesters in parliament demanding a constitutional change, while voting to delay a decision on whether to amend the constitution until November.

“The electoral system is not really democratic,” Panchada said. “It’s not just the students but the middle class and the poor who want to see the government (built) on democratic elections and a real democratic system.”

The Thai monarchy has long been considered a god.  But opponents say the time for change has come

For Panusya, a third-year student studying sociology and anthropology at Thammasat University, she is still wrapping her head around her newly discovered notoriety.

“Last year, the focus was just on me or our activities. And now, I’ve become a symbol of this movement.”

His family supports his activism, he said recently. “My father is very worried about me. My parents are supporting my decision, but they are worried about my safety.”

But Panusai’s protests have caught the attention of the authorities, who know that speaking out in public about the monarchy could be dangerous.

“Yeah, they’ve put people in front of my bedroom. Strangers cars or motorcycles come up behind me.”

Thai lawyers for Human Rights have reported that 62 people have been arrested during the three-month protest, some on treason charges.

Panusaya said she fully accepts what could happen if she continues her demands but said pressure for reform is crucial.

“I know I can handle all the possibilities and difficulties, including my own life,” he said. “We aim to spread this monarchical reform ideology as far as we can. The demands will remain at the moment.”