Further updated: The monarchy-coup two-step

8 11 2020

Prior to the rally in the evening, it was reported by the Bangkok Post that some”15 companies of crowd control police” were to be “deployed at the Royal Plaza and the Bureau of the Royal Household to maintain law and order during today’s rally by anti-government protesters.”

The police stated that they expected the protesters would march on “Ratchadamnoen Avenue to either the Royal Plaza or the Bureau of the Royal Household.” And that’s pretty much what happened.

In anticipation, a “national security unit had prepared negotiating teams to talk with the protesters to minimise the rally’s adverse impacts on the general public … [and] “would strictly prohibit the protesters from demonstrating within a 150m-radius of HM the King’s palace.”

Metal barriers were set “between the anti-government protesters who will gather in front of McDonald’s and a group of royalists who intend demonstrating on the opposite side of the monument to reduce confrontation…”. There was no clashes as most of the yellow shirts – as if by magic – had all left by the time the pro-democracy event got fully underway.

Police also use “55 public buses from the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) to support their task of ‘facilitating traffic’ at the pro-democracy rally at Democracy Monument.”

The buses were used near the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace complex, together with some razor wire and metal barricades, with hundreds of police manning them.

Clipped from The Nation

The “Free Youth group posted a message inviting people to join the demonstration.” It reportedly stated that:

a letter listing their demands would be submitted to HM the King via the Office of His Majesty’s Private Secretary, the Bureau of the Royal Household, the Privy Council as well as the PM. The letter also says the protesters do not want a violent confrontation and will call on the government to stop hurting the people and violating their rights.

They also assembled post boxes to receive letters from the public to the king.

All of this seemed quite well choreographed, so it was rather odd to learn that “Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said the government has not prepared any special measures to handle the protesters.”

As the protesters marched, they “were prevented by police on Sunday evening from reaching the Palace Office to petition for reform of the monarchy.” In doing that, at “around 6.45pm, police had used high pressure guns to spray water on the protesters.”

Oddly, the police could then be heard apologizing for using water cannon – no dye and no irritants – this was confirmed in live broadcasts by protest leaders. They stated “they accepted the apology with a grain of salt, and asked them to explain their past behaviour.”

While protesters breached an initial police cordon, they stopped short of the main police line, and the Bangkok Post reported that volunteer marshals kept the protesters away from the main police cordon.

At that point, “protest leaders read out a collectively agreed message, undersigned by the ‘People’, calling for reform of the monarchy before the crowd dispersed and the rally ended” at around 9.30pm.

It was difficult to assess the size of the crowd. As we write this post, the only estimate we had seen was “tens of thousands.”

The rally appeared somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events and it remains to be seen where the protesters go from here.

Update 1: Prachatai reports on the rally and says that “[a]ctivist Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon said that the letter writing activity is organised because they want those in power to listen to the voice of the people…”. A translation of the joint statement is included:

From the untainted people to King Vajiralongkorn,

With care, not cruelty

With well wish, not hatred

With hope, not fear

It is an absolute truth that all humans are both loved and loathed. Blood and roots do not judge whether a man should be loved or hated. Love and faith come from your own action.

A common man might have a choice to be surrounded by those who love and have faith in him. Even though it might turn out that around him are full of immoral, incompetent, obsequious people, still it is his choice.

However, a king cannot do so for he cannot choose between love and hatred.
It does not matter whether the people love the king or not, he must love them all the same.
If the king can talk to the people who love him, he must also talk to the people who do not all the same.

When you hear all the flattering praise from the people, you must also hear fearless criticisms and suggestions all the same.

When the king truly cherishes democracy, all people will find happiness.

The three demands from the people are the utmost compromise.

With power of equal human dignity,

“People”

Prachatai also reports that one innovation of note: A “We love the king” sticker with added words:

“We love the king that allows us to check.”
“We love the king that spends the tax worthwhile.”
“We love the king that do not endorse the coup.”

Update 2: Quite a few newspaper accounts – and a couple of readers – disagree with our statements that the protest yesterday “seemed quite well choreographed…” and “somewhat less spontaneous and innovative than past events.” They reckon it was another remarkable event. For example, Voranai Vanijaka at Thisrupt says “What happened last night, 8 November, was unprecedented.” He adds:

Ratsadon marched to the Grand Palace to submit letters to King Rama 10, with an envelope addressing him by his first name. The official letter’s content explained to the king how a king should behave.

Think about it in the context of Thai culture, a group of tweenies addressing the king by his first name and writing a letter explaining how the king should behave.

It’s not only unprecedented. It’s a world turn upside down.

After firing water cannons into the crowd, the police commander told the protestors he could not let them pass, for the area he’s guarding is a sacred site.

“Sacred” is the keyword.

Ratsadons are defying Thailand’s most sacred institution….


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