Dressed in hard hats and wearing black, thousands of people rallied in Bangkok on Sunday, using tactics inspired by Hong Kong to oppose the authorities and demand the resignation of the prime minister and prevent the power of royal family.
The government is fighting to control an unprecedented student-led movement that began on university campuses and has since spread to streets across the country. Protesters risked a long prison sentence to break the country̵7;s last ban and call for monarchical reforms, demanding that the institution answer the people. They also want broader democratic reforms including a new constitution.
In a cat and mouse game with police, which has arrested dozens of activists on charges such as sedition, protest leaders have told followers to wait on standby on Sunday, the fifth day of unrest. . “Where are we going to meet today hmmm?” a major protest group was posted on Facebook, before eventually urging people to quickly gather at two of Bangkok’s busiest travel hubs, Victory Monument and Asok.
Last week the government announced a ban on the gatherings of more than four people in the capital in an attempt to stop the demonstrations. Since then it has intensified legal threats, warning that people could face up to two years in prison if they post a selfie at a rally.
At least 80 people were arrested, including key protest leaders, according to Thai Lawyers for Human Rights. The two men were charged under a rarely used law prohibiting “violence against the queen” after a group of people hecked a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida last week. Charges carry a possible death penalty if his life is thought to be in danger.
At the Victory Monument, where nearly 10,000 people gathered, protesters waved pictures of imprisoned activists, dancing “free our friends” and calling the police “slaves of the dictatorship”.
A police spokesman, Kissana Phathanacharoen, said at a news conference: “We are committed to maintaining peace and order. To do this, we are bound by laws, international standards, human rights.”
In scenes reminiscent of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrations, most protesters in Bangkok use hand gestures to convey messages and form human chains to pass umbrellas to people in front of the rally . Many protesters wore hard hats and goggles as a precaution after water cannons exploded to disperse people, including school students, on Friday.
Supplies of face masks and bottled water purchased from donations collected online have reached out to protesters. Meanwhile, at a train station that closed its doors in accordance with a government order aimed at stopping protesters, the dog’s food was left with a note that read “a faithful dog deserves a reward.” “.
Protests also took place in at least 19 other provinces on Sunday, with many people in many locations shining their phone lights after dark. Unity protests are also being held or planned in Europe, the US, Canada and Taiwan. Hong Kong activists like Joshua Wong and Nathan Law sent messages of support.
The law described the protesters in Thailand as brave, and said that students from the same movement were fighting against undemocratic systems. “The structure of the problem is different but at the end of the day we see a lot of parallels between the two cases,” he said, pointing to the use of legal charges and water cannons against the protesters, and the closure of transportation systems to try to prevent rallies. “These little tricks have the same color.”
Relations between Hong Kong and Thailand students have grown in recent months, with online activists united in protest against authority, using the hashtag milk tea alliance – a playful reference to their sharing love to drink.
The student-led protests in Thailand began at the beginning of the year when the court banned a prominent opposition party popular with youth. The rallies were paused due to the coronavirus pandemic but continued in recent months, with young people already fed up with an establishment they accused of suppressing democracy and mismanagement in the country.
Protesters called for a constitutional replacement, which was passed under military rule and said it had given prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha an unfair advantage over last year’s elections. Prayuth, who first came to power in the 2014 coup, rejected it and rejected calls to resign.
Students also challenge the monarchy, an institution that has long been considered untouchable and which, according to the constitution, is “in the position of respected worship”. Anyone who “slanders, insults or threatens the king, queen, apparent heir or regent” can face up to 15 years in prison.
Despite this, protesters continue to demand reform, arguing that the monarchy – and the military, which is closely aligned – should be held accountable if Thailand has a true democracy.
The king, who spent most of his time living in Germany, succeeded his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in 2016 and strengthened his authority. After a series, he directly controlled a fortune in the palace estimated at tens of billions of dollars, as well as several army units.
On Saturday protesters painted a flag on the road along with the words “Republic of Thailand”. The writing is painted all night.
The royal palace did not comment on the demands of the protesters.