BANGKOK – Thai authorities have shut down parts of Bangkok’s shopping mall over the weekend in an attempt to stop young protesters from continuing their anti-government protests.
It doesn’t work.
Thousands of members of the pro-democracy movement, motivated by political awareness among knowledgeable students on social media, on Saturday and Sunday to call for fresh elections, a new constitution and reforms in about 20 provinces at the height of monarchy in Thai society.
“I have not always been politically active,” said Paracarn Tangsamrutkul, 23, who attended several rallies in Bangkok on Saturday. “You would have met me three months ago. Now I understand why we have to come here. We have to speak. ”
In the last few days, the Thai military-backed government, led by Priyuth Chan-ocha, a retired general who launched a military coup in 2014, has stepped up efforts to quell months of protests. But calls for change seem to have only become stronger, once taboo political sentiments have suddenly become commonplace.
And in a country divided for decades by rival factions – largely, an urban elite and a rural base that has long experienced neglect of Thailand’s growing wealth gap – the current pro-democracy movement has surpassed traditional political conflict.
The 30-year-old civil servant, who attended a rally at the Victory Memorial in Bangkok on Sunday, said he was satisfied that the younger generation had the courage to come out. He declined to give his name in view of his government job, but said he and student opponents were united in the belief that the country and change must be brought about.
For many years, the leaders of the Thai people would choose, only to see that they would be removed by military forces or judicial maneuvers that were allowed by the palace. The country’s politically aged defender argued that the elected prime minister is corrupt and adept at milking the system, captivating the public with promises of cheaper health care and crop subsidies.
According to the country’s gateway political elite, some of these elected leaders challenged the constitutional monarchy’s authority by positioning themselves as rivals in the king’s popularity.
The protection of the monarchy was the main justification for the 2014 uprising, after which democracy languished. Mr Prayat refused to hold elections for another five years. The constitution drafted by the military ordered that a full appointment to the Senate be made. Clear critics of the military and the monarchy have been imprisoned, beaten or disappeared.
Even when elections were held last year, international observers considered them less than appropriate. An upstart party that promised to move the country back from the old politics won a surprisingly large number of votes – and was later ordered to dissolve what was seen as a politically motivated ban by human rights groups. Mr. Prayath has been the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the country.
The situation in Thailand has recently forced some members of the establishment to speak out.
On Saturday, several hundred doctors from hospitals known to be run by the royalists signed a letter a day earlier against water cannons used to forcibly disperse protesters. The water was saturated with chemical irritants, and many students were shocked to see the rioters fleeing from the police.
Hours later, Dr. J. Jorosadao Rimfnitachayakit, a surgeon, was fired for having his name among 386 doctors.
“Mongkutwatana Hospital has a clear policy not to accept those who are part of the enemy movement,” said Major General Reenthong Nanna, director of the hospital.
Thai authorities have drafted a vigorous legal constitution to try to criminalize the movement. On Thursday, the government issued an emergency decree banning public gatherings of more than four people in the Thai capital, in complete disregard of the order. With their emergency power, police could declare any location in Bangkok limited to protesters.
Every day, officials detain more opposition leaders, a wake-a-mall approach that has encouraged new organizers to come forward. Thai lawyers for Human Rights said more than 80 protesters had been arrested in the past five days.
Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Sunday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. So checking from the protest spot can be done online.
“It’s as if you’re taking your own evidence of disobedience to the emergency order,” said Maj. Gen. Yingos Thepjamnong, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.
But Thailand’s political uprising will be posted on Instagram and Facebook.
Opponents have formed online online alliances with pro-democracy forces in places like Hong Kong. Activists from Nigeria and Belarus have sent millions of greetings online. A Thai K-pop fan club collected nearly 25,000 for supply through don online donations.
Over the weekend, a large leaderless mob in Bangkok took inspiration from their counterparts in Hong Kong, where months passed believing their tricks to peacefully confront a police force armed with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets: umbrellas, goggles and invitations to “be like water. They also followed a last-minute strategy of announcing protest sites and trying to overtake riot police.
Amid the occasional drizzle over the weekend, Thai protesters formed tidy lines to pass helmets and raincoats to people near the front line. As the telecommunications signal weakened, they resorted to shouting news and instead protests.
A government spokesman said on Sunday that while Mr Prayath was committed to listening to problems from all sides, he was also warning any opposition that could provoke violence. There have been numerous violent crackdowns on protesters in Thailand in the past, most recently in 2010 when dozens were killed in Bangkok as protesters were forcibly cleared from the streets.
Parliament has been warned to stand for a special session on Monday. Otherwise the assembly seat was to meet by November.
More provocative opponents than Mr. Prayuth’s call for an exit are demanding that one of the world’s richest kings should abide by the constitution rather than floating on it instead of being a semidivine.
Thailand abolished the monarchy completely in 1932, but the crown retains a higher status and is protected by any unrestricted legal law. On Friday, two protesters were accused of committing an “act of violence against the Queen’s freedom” after being stunned by a royal car passing by in Bangkok two months ago. If convicted, they could serve life in prison.
The king Mahara Vajirolongkorn Bodindra Debayavarangkun, his queen and heir apparently resides in Germany, as the king has increased his control over the financial and military units of the crown. Opponents have insisted they do not want to overthrow the king; They chanted “reform the monarchy” by thousands on Sunday.
The day before, protesters took turns taking turns in front of a spray-painted sign on the road, showing the Thai flag superimposed with the words “Republic of Thailand”. The country is officially a state.
Initially, the protesters, although their identities are obscured by face masks or helmets, quickly pose for selfies before the panic subsides. But soon they lengthened and raised their hand with a three-fingered salute that has become the hallmark of the protest.
A young man threw a stone at the word “king” written near the flag. The members of the crowd gasped. Then they started clapping.