BANGKOK – Thai authorities are closing down parts of Bangkok’s commercial center and crumbling public rail networks over the weekend in an effort to prevent young demonstrators from continuing their anti-government protests.
It did not work.
Thousands of members of the pro-democracy movement, fueled by a political awakening of savvy students on social media, gathered in the capital of Thailand and in nearly 20 provinces on Saturday and Sunday to call for fresh elections , a new Constitution and reform of the lofty position of the monarchy in Thai society.
“I am not always politically active,” said Perakarn Tangsamritkul, 23, who participated in one of the many rallies in Bangkok on Saturday. “You should have met me three months ago. Now I understand why we need to be here. We need to speak. “
In recent days, the Thai military-linked government, led by Prayuth Chan-ocha, a retired general who organized a military coup in 2014, has stepped up efforts to eradicate the protests. But calls for change appear to have only intensified, with suddenly the sentimental political sentiment prevailing.
And in a country divided for decades between hostile factions – broad, an urban elite and a rural base that has long been ignored as Thailand’s wealth gap widens – the current pro movement -democracy exceeds traditional political taxes.
A 30-year-old civil servant who attended a rally at the Victory Monument in Bangkok on Sunday said he was pleased that the younger generation had the courage to come out. He declined to give his name to the government, but said he and the protesting students were united in the belief that the country should change.
For years, Thais would choose populist leaders, only to see them removed by military coups or court-approved judicial maneuvers. The country’s old guard argued that the elected prime ministers were bad and accustomed to milking the system, admiring the masses of promises of cheap health care and crop subsidies.
According to the elite political elite, some of the elected leaders also challenged the authority of the constitutional monarch by positioning themselves as rivals to the king’s popularity.
Protecting the monarchy was a major justification for the coup in 2014, after democracy collapsed. Mr. Prayuth refused to hold elections for another five years. A Constitution set by the military that decides that the Senate will be fully elected. Outspoken critics of the military and the monarchy have been imprisoned, killed or disappeared.
Even when elections were held last year, international observers considered them to be less than fair. An enthusiastic party that promised to move the country despite old politics won a surprisingly large number of votes – and was later ordered to dissolve what human rights groups saw as a ban with a political ban. Mr. Prayuth remains the country’s prime minister and defense minister.
The state of affairs in Thailand recently forced some members of the establishment to speak out.
On Saturday, hundreds of doctors, some from hospitals known to be run by royalists, signed a letter against the water cannons used to force the protesters to disperse the previous day. The water was lined with an irritating chemical, and the sight of students fleeing the riot police shocked many Thais.
A few hours later, Dr. Jarosdao Rimphanitchayakit, a surgeon, was fired for having his name on 386 doctors.
“Mongkutwattana Hospital has a clear policy not to accept parts of the enemy movement,” Maj. Gen. Rienthong Nanna, the director of the hospital.
Thai authorities have set up a heavy legal structure to try to criminalize the movement. On Thursday, the government issued an emergency decree in which public gatherings of more than four people were banned in the Thai capital, an order that was completely ignored. With their emergency powers, the police can also declare any place in Bangkok that there is no limit to the protesters.
Every day, authorities deter more protest leaders, a motivating strategy that has encouraged new organizers to move forward. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said more than 80 protesters have been arrested in the past five days.
On Sunday, police warned that posting a selfie from social media protests could lead to two years in prison. Also check online from a protest venue.
“It’s like you’re getting your own evidence of emergency decree violation,” Maj said. Gen. Yingyos Thepjumnong, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.
But the Thai political uprising will be posted on Instagram and Facebook.
Protesters have formed online alliances with pro-democracy forces in places like Hong Kong. Activists from far and wide in Nigeria and Belarus have sent millions of greetings online. A Thai K-pop fan club raised nearly $ 25,000 for supplies through online donations.
Over the weekend, most of the people without a leader in Bangkok took inspiration from their counterparts in Hong Kong, where protesters spent some tactics for a peaceful confrontation with a police force. armed with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets: umbrellas, goggles and calls to “be like water.” They also followed the wait-and-see approach to last-minute to announce protest areas. , to try to eradicate the riot police.
Amid the occasional misting over the weekend, Thai protesters formed neat lines to pass helmets and raincoats to those near the front lines. With the declining telecommunications signal, they took to shouting news and instructions instead of protest columns.
On Sunday, a government spokesman said that while Mr. Prayuth was focused on listening to problems from all sides, he was also alert to any protesters who might incite violence. Thailand has suffered several violent explosions against protesters in the past, most recently in 2010 when dozens were killed in Bangkok while demonstrators were forced to clear streets.
Parliament was warned to stand for a special session on Monday. Otherwise the legislator is not scheduled to convene until November.
What is more moving than calling for Mr. Prayuth’s release is the demands of the protesters that the king, one of the richest monarchs in the world, should evade the Constitution instead of floating above it as a semidivine being .
Thailand ended the monarchy in 1932, but the crown retained a high status and was protected by strict laws that criminalized any corruption. On Friday, the two protesters were charged with committing “an act of violence against the queen’s freedom” after they shouted a surprise at a passing motorcade in Bangkok two days earlier. If convicted, they could be jailed for life.
Hari Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, his queen and heir evidently lived mostly in Germany, though the king extended his financial control of the crown and military units. The protesters emphasized that they did not intend to overthrow the king; they shouted “reform the monarchy” of thousands on Sunday.
One day, protesters took turns posing in front of a spray painted on a road displaying the Thai flag superimposed on the words “Republic of Thailand.” The country is officially a kingdom.
Initially, the demonstrators, despite their identities covered with face masks or helmets, quickly posed for selfies before moving away from twitter. But soon they lingered, raising their arms in three salute lines which became a sign of protest.
A young man stepped on the word “king” written near the flag. The members of the crowd were stunned. Then they started clapping.