Updated: Opposing the regime

19 07 2020

The big news from Thailand on the weekend was the student-led demonstrations against the military-backed royalist regime in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Ubolratchathani. The demonstrations coincided with actions in Germany, targeting Thailand’s absentee king.

For the events in Germany, see ACT4DEM and PIXELHelper.

There are many reports available. Here, we will just summarize some of these.

As usual, the Bangkok Post reported “hundreds” of demonstrators, whereas the videos and photos published elsewhere suggest much larger crowds than the Post seems to want people to believe.

The Nation identifies the organizers in Bangkok as the “Student Union of Thailand and the ‘Yaowashon Plod Ak — Free Youth’ group” who, “at Democracy Monument on Saturday evening” expressed “their opposition to what they call Thailand’s ‘deep-rooted dictatorial system’.” They called on “the Prayut Chan-o-cha government dissolve Parliament…” and a new constitution. They gave the regime a 14 day deadline for dissolving parliament. Thet also called for the regime to “stop intimidating people.” The Nation reckoned about 1,000 people, which also looks light.

The protest was meant to continue until Sunday morning. However, there were a couple of incidents, with one man slightly injured and a “disturbance … when people saw the authorities trying to take a couple of protesters away for investigation for allegedly undermining the [r]oyal [f]amily. Other protesters came to their rescue and prevented them from being taken away.”

Before midnight, protest leaders then “asked the protesters to disperse for their own safety. They also confirmed on the Free Youth Facebook page that they were all safe.”

Thai PBS reported:

… Chuthatip Sirikhan, president of the Union of Students of Thailand and one of the protest leaders, told the crowd that some “men in black”, with crew-cut hair, had tried to use black cloths to cover surveillance cameras around the Democracy Monument….

The protesters raised many issues of concern: intimidation and repression by the regime, the Constitutional Court’s attacks on political parties like Future Forward, the enforced disappearance of pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the dragging of activist Tiwagorn Withiton to a Khon Khaen psychiatric hospital

AP reported “[s]everal thousand anti-government protesters” in Bangkok, calling the rally “the biggest of its kind since the government called a state of emergency in March…” over the virus. It notes that “[p]rotests against the government of former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha had been drawing increasingly large crowds at the time, but tapered off quickly when several coronavirus clusters were confirmed and the emergency law was invoked.”

Thisrupt has a short video report from early in the rally.

Several hundred police were mobilized:

Police ringed the monument and set up barriers to try to prevent the protesters from occupying it. Police loudspeakers played a recording of the text of the emergency law in an apparent warning that they considered the gathering illegal.

Al Jazeera reports that there “were also some veiled public references at the protest to the powerful Thai monarchy, despite a law forbidding criticism of the king. Such references would once have been unthinkable.”

Some signs and speeches at Saturday’s protest made veiled references to the monarchy:

“This is our country, but whose home is in Germany?” said one of the student leaders on a small stage set up on the street.

King Vajiralongkorn has an estate in Germany, where he spends much of the year.

A protest sign read “Lost faith is definitely not a crime!!! #Thiwakorn”, in a reference to a separate protest in Thailand’s northeast on Friday in support of a man who was committed to a psychiatric hospital after he wore a T-shirt saying he had lost faith in the monarchy.

Another banner said “The People’s Party Isn’t Dead” – a reference to the political party whose revolution ended absolute royal rule in 1932.

It is no surprise that it is reported that “Thai security officers are keeping a close watch on the political activities of the Union of Thai Students…”.

Update: Prachatai has an excellent report on the Bangkok protest, with some excellent photos, including the actions of the police to disrupt the rally.


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