Tearing them down

19 10 2020

The website Royal Central has noticed that anti-monarchism runs deep among pro-democracy activists and their supporters.

It notes that:

Protestors in Bangkok have torn down photos of King Maha Vajiralongkorn (also called Rama X) and Queen Suthida.

Videos have emerged of protestors tearing down photos of the King and Queen while chanting “Get out!”

And not just in Bangkok. The photos of the royals are everywhere – it is a central element of palace propaganda – so have become easy targets throughout the country, being torn down, defaced and covered in anti-monarchist graffiti.

It refers to videos that has gone viral on social media showing tattoos of the dead king removed and street art “calling for a republic, and many of the demonstrators have been seen carrying signs saying ‘Republic of Thailand’.”

Protests are “being seen as the biggest threat to the Thai monarchy in decades.”

Thailand banned gatherings of five people or more last week in an effort to curb the anti-monarchy protests, but instead of stopping the protests, it has added more fuel to the fire. Police have sprayed protestors with water laced with chemicals to end the protests, but demonstrators have continued to gather to fight for democracy in their country.

The report also notes the “controversy in Germany” where it has been officially stated that “the King is not allowed to reign from their soil. They are said to also be watching the demonstrations in Thailand very closely.”





Thailand’s super-queen

19 10 2020

The palace propaganda that developed over many decades has always portrayed royals as “good” and with super intellects. One can never know how intelligent or dull they are because no one could ask or challenge and one never knew if what was in their name was their own thought. We do know that Vajiralongkorn was never very bright.

One of the ways the royals were propagandized as geniuses was was through honorary degrees. The dead king, who had a high school diploma, has a whole Wikipedia page on all the “trophies” he was given, almost all arranged for him by government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He held the “world record” for honorary doctorates at almost 140. Chiang Mai University gave him 14 in one year and in another year Kasetsart gave him 11. He got some of them in areas remote from his claimed “expertise.”

In recent days, Queen Suthida appears to have surpassed King Bhumibol for the number of honorary degrees in one year – in fact, all in one day! She got 19 from different Rajaphat universities at a ceremony where the bosses of all 38 Rajaphat universities showed up to present her with her “awards.” That’s one hell of a super queen!

We are sure that we at PPT aren’t the only ones astounded by such nonsensical posterior polishing. Both king and queen seem anything but sharp in their responses.

As a footnote, it was noticed that about this time, Consort Sineenat went home. Readers will recall that when he was unhappy with her and had her jailed, he also demolished the family home. Presumably it has been rebuilt.





What the king thinks

17 10 2020

Channel 4’s coverage includes a clip of the king speaking. Watch through to the end of the clip.





The Guardian on Thailand’s absolutist monarch

16 10 2020

The Guardian has an editorial on Thailand that deserves to be widely read. With apologies to the publisher, we reproduce it here in full (including hyperlinks):

The Guardian view on Thailand’s protests and the king: the end of deference

Demonstrations reflect a longstanding appetite for democracy – but challenging the monarchy breaches a taboo

Thailand is often described as coup-prone, given the numerous military takeovers since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. It would be as accurate to call it democracy-hungry. Thais have periodically fought to determine their own future, despite the risks.

Early on Thursday, the government declared a “severe” state of emergency in Bangkok, in response to months of protests culminating in a mass rally on Wednesday. It banned gatherings of more than four people and the publication of information that could “create fear” or “affect national security”. Thousands immediately surged into the streets, angered by the arrest of protest leaders. The fear of a harsher crackdown is well-founded given the brutal repression of previous movements, including the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University. The UK and others must press the regime to respect the rights of protesters.

Prayuth Chan-ocha’s administration, a military junta that laundered itself into an elected government via a rigged system, is both incompetent and authoritarian. Even dissidents who have fled the country have been harassed, disappeared or killed. Unhappiness has been fuelled by Covid-19’s destruction of the tourism sector, on which the country is heavily dependent. Protestors demand the prime minister’s resignation and the redrafting of the constitution. But they have also broken new ground by demanding reform of what was previously taboo, thanks to heavy penalties for discussing it: Thailand’s royalty. Anon Nampa, the lawyer who helped kick the movement off and is now detained, warned: “If we don’t fix the monarchy, we can’t fix anything else.”

While his father, who died in 2016, was seen touring provincial development projects, King Maha Vajiralongkorn is better known for his personal life, including the ruthless treatment of ex-wives. He resides largely in Bavaria with a female entourage; Germany’s foreign minister says it has “made it clear that politics concerning Thailand should not be conducted from German soil”.

But the king has also centralised both wealth and power, taking direct command of troops, insisting on constitutional changes and taking personal ownership of the Crown Property Bureau’s holdings – estimated at $40bn [PPT: way too low]. While millions are unemployed, $1bn of this year’s government budget will go to the monarchy. Cue previously unthinkable scenes, with protestors giving a three-fingered salute to the royal motorcade in reference to the Hunger Games and to liberty, equality and fraternity.

Yet the institution’s revered status had already begun eroding. While the last king was seen as a pillar of stability, he consistently sided with the forces of conservatism. Anti-monarchism began to emerge among the largely poor and rural “red shirts” who supported the ousted and controversial prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Strikingly, however, there now seems to be a nascent realignment between this movement and another with which it has often clashed: the urban, largely middle class pro-democracy movement often rooted in universities and NGOs, and which most recently swung behind Future Forward, a now-dissolved pro-democracy party.

Thailand’s establishment has so far proved incapable of grasping that the age of deference is over. It is not surprising that the elites resist change in a country with possibly the highest wealth inequality in the world, where the richest 1% control almost 67% of assets. But nor is it feasible that the rest will be content with their meagre lot. Until a better political and economic settlement is reached, the strains will continue to grow. The monarchy’s position is now one of them.





The Economist on King Vajiralongkorn

16 10 2020

The Economist has a timely briefing on the king. With humble apologies to the publisher for taking it in full, but it is very good and deserves to be read by all. Here it is:

Battle royal
Thailand’s king seeks to bring back absolute monarchy
Maha Vajiralongkorn has provoked something new in Thailand: open criticism of a king

THE MONUMENTS disappear in the dark. In April 2017 it was a small bronze plaque from Bangkok’s Royal Plaza. It marked the spot where, in 1932, revolutionaries proclaimed the end of Thailand’s absolute monarchy. In December 2018 a statue was hauled away. It commemorated the defeat of rebels who attempted a coup against those same revolutionaries. Last month activists installed a plaque in the heart of Bangkok’s royal district to protest against the missing monuments. “The people have expressed the intention that this country belongs to the people, and not the king”, it stated. Within a day it was gone.

The world knows Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn as a playboy who has churned through four wives, lives among lots of women in a German hotel and relishes skimpy crop tops that reveal elaborate temporary tattoos. For Thais, his four-year-old reign has been more sinister.

The king makes elderly advisers crawl before him, shaves the heads of courtiers who displease him and has disowned several of his children. Worse, he has steadily amassed power, taking personal control of “crown property”, assuming direct command of troops and ordering changes to the constitution. He makes no secret of his hankering for the days of absolute monarchy (hence the disappearing monuments). But Thais began to protest in July. Can they prevent the removal not just of plaques, but of constitutional constraints?

On October 14th thousands of protesters marched through central Bangkok to camp outside Government House, where ministers’ offices are located. They also formed human chains to carry away potted plants that blocked the way to the country’s Democracy Monument. Not far away King Vajiralongkorn himself, in the country on a fleeting visit, passed by in a motorcade. Clusters of royalists gathered wearing yellow shirts to show their loyalty to him.

That night a spooked government issued an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people and prohibiting reporting on topics that could “harm national security” or “cause panic”. The government warned that protesters who insulted the monarchy would be prosecuted. Several prominent leaders of the protest were arrested the following morning. Yet tensions increased as protests continued in defiance of the decree.

Thailand defines itself as a democracy with the king as head of state. The monarchy is revered. Photographs of royals adorn public buildings and private homes. Father’s Day is celebrated on the previous king’s birthday. Thais hear a royal anthem before films start at the cinema.

Technically King Vajiralongkorn rules as a constitutional monarch. But ancient structures have never entirely disappeared. The king used to sit at the apex of society in a semi-divine role. Defenders of the vestiges of this order have long clashed with those claiming to represent an alternative source of authority: the Thai people.

The conflict helps explain why Thailand has endured 12 coups and 20 constitutions since 1932. Since the 1950s a symbiotic relationship between the army and the palace has bolstered the legitimacy of military regimes. For the past two decades the greatest foe of such elites has been Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist prime minister ousted by the army in 2006. His supporters, known as red shirts, battled their yellow-shirted foes in the streets on several occasions in the years after he lost power.

The generals engineered a coup in 2014. The commander who led it, Prayuth Chan-ocha, remains prime minister. An army-friendly constitution disadvantaged large parties, such as Mr Thaksin’s flagship one, Pheu Thai, in an election last year.

One supposed reason why the army seized power six years ago was to ensure a steady succession between the ninth and tenth monarchs of the Chakri dynasty. King Vajiralongkorn’s path to the throne was not simple. Thailand’s elites took against him while his popular father still lived. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was considered the richest monarch in the world, his wealth outstripping that of oil-endowed Middle Eastern rulers and Europe’s royals with their castles and palaces.

Aristocratic types fretted because the crown prince, as Vajiralongkorn was previously known, caused so many scandals. Even his mother likened him to Don Juan. After leaving his first wife, a princess in her own right, he disowned four of his five children with his second wife, an actress, who eventually fled Thailand. When the relationship ended with his third wife—once filmed almost naked and crouching before her husband with birthday cake—several of her family members went to prison. The prince spent lavishly and indulged in eccentricity, elevating his beloved poodle, Foo Foo, to the rank of “air chief marshal”.

Still, King Vajiralongkorn took over unimpeded after his father’s death. Whereas the father was publicly loved, the son is privately loathed. His coronation last year attracted tiny crowds compared with those at the late king’s funeral rites. Despite his co-operation with army regimes, millions of Thais felt King Bhumibol displayed the virtues expected of a Buddhist monarch.

King Vajiralongkorn does not even live in Thailand. He rules a country of 70m people from more than 5,000 miles away in Germany. One insider bluntly appraises his activities there: “Bike, fuck, eat. He does only those three things.” The German government finds his presence awkward. “We have made it clear that politics concerning Thailand should not be conducted from German soil,” the foreign minister, Heiko Maas, told the Bundestag on October 7th.

Money, money, money

The king’s militaristic harem inspires embarrassing headlines around the world. Just months after his fourth marriage to a former air stewardess last year, he elevated one concubine, a former nurse, to the status of “royal noble consort”. She is the first woman to hold this title since Thailand became a constitutional monarchy.

Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi fell from grace soon after her elevation. She disappeared from view. Then, in September, she was reinstated and declared “untainted”. Chinese netizens have likened Ms Sineenat to a crafty concubine from a popular television series, “Empresses in the Palace”.

In March 2012 permission from the Justice Department was published in the Royal Gazette for a temporary prison. A spartan map appears to show its location as possibly within the grounds of a palace owned by Vajiralongkorn. His bad books are a miserable place to be. Pictures allegedly of Srirasmi Suwadee, once his third wife, appeared in a German newspaper last year. Head shaved and tearful, she was reported as being under house arrest.

Airing such dirty linen in public in Thailand, however, is perilous. The country’s lèse-majesté law allows between three and 15 years in prison for insulting “the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent”. King Vajiralongkorn has instructed the government not to use the law. But this hardly reflects newfound tolerance. Critics instead risk charges for sedition or computer crime, among others. In July one man was sent to a psychiatric hospital for wearing a T-shirt that stated: “I have lost all faith in the institution of monarchy”.

Playboy antics distract from the more sinister feats of the monarch since he came to power. In political, financial and military matters King Vajiralongkorn has gained powers never possessed by his father. His interventions appear part of a larger strategy to push Thailand closer to absolute monarchy once more.

Take his finances. In 2017 he gained full control of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which manages royal investments (it was previously run by the ministry of finance). Its holdings are estimated to be worth $40bn. In 2018 the CPB declared that its assets would be considered the king’s personal property. As a result the monarch has stakes in some of Thailand’s corporate titans. He is the largest shareholder in Siam Cement Group, a conglomerate with revenues of almost $14bn in 2019, with a third of its shares. The head of the CPB, long a stalwart in the king’s circles, is a director of Siam Cement Group and of the 113-year-old Siam Commercial Bank, one of Thailand’s biggest, in which the king also has a stake.

In addition to the king’s private means, the Thai state showers the royal family with funds. For the 2021 fiscal year government agencies have drawn up budgets which allocate more than 37bn baht—over $1.1bn—to the monarchy. The Royal Office will receive 9bn baht of that directly. Much of the rest goes to government agencies, the police and the defence ministry for security and for development projects. By comparison, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth cost her taxpayers the equivalent of $87m last year. Precise details on where the money goes are elusive. Huge sums go to pay for royal transport alone (there are many planes and helicopters to maintain).

King Vajiralongkorn’s political interventions are another demonstration of his growing authority. In theory the monarch sits above parties, parliament and politics. But after a referendum in 2016, in which campaigners were banned from opposing the constitution put forward for approval, the monarch demanded changes to the charter. He altered it specifically to make ruling from afar easier.

He meddled even more audaciously ahead of last year’s parliamentary election. Mr Thaksin persuaded the king’s older sister to run as a putative prime ministerial candidate for a party with links to him. But the crown in effect came to the rescue of Mr Thaksin’s military foes. The monarch declared his sister’s ambitions “unconstitutional”. He also stated that royals should stay out of politics—yet the night before the election, he urged Thais to vote for “good people”, which was taken as an endorsement of Mr Prayuth and his allies.

Tomorrow belongs to me

This is just one example of how the palace and the barracks have continued to support each other since King Vajiralongkorn came to the throne. The king has a deep interest in military matters. Trained in an Australian academy, he holds the titles of admiral, field-marshal and air-marshal. The queen is a general and Ms Sineenat a major-general. The king has drawn military forces to his direct command. The Royal Command Guard has been created with some 5,000 soldiers. They are stationed in Bangkok, while other important army units, including an infantry regiment and a cavalry battalion which have facilitated past coups, have been moved out of the city. Overthrowing any government without advance co-ordination with royal troops would prove extremely difficult.

Why has the army permitted such manoeuvres? Defence of the monarchy is one of its central reasons for existing. Both the powerful army commander who retired in September, and his replacement, are deeply loyal to the king. They also rose through the ranks of the King’s Guard, in which Vajiralongkorn himself once served. Mr Prayuth and his closest allies, by contrast, emerged from the Queen’s Guard within the Second Infantry Division.

The prime minister can hardly counter the monarch’s power grabs. He depends on the king’s support for a semblance of legitimacy. Whereas the middle and upper classes of many countries contain democratic champions, those of Thailand “have never needed mass support to advance or protect their interests”, explains James Wise, a former Australian ambassador to Thailand, in his book “Thailand: History, Politics and the Rule of Law”. These conservatives would not stand for an army-linked prime minister rebuffing the royal institution.

Mr Prayuth is also weak: he wrestles even with his allies in the ruling coalition and lacks personal popularity. That hinders his ability to tackle the difficulties Thailand faces. Growth was slowing even before the coronavirus pandemic struck (see chart). Now the central bank expects the economy to contract by more than 8% this year—worse than the crash in the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

Why should I wake up?

A very few opposition politicians have resisted King Vajiralongkorn’s growing control. In October most MPs from the liberal Future Forward Party, founded in 2018, opposed an executive decree in the lower house of parliament. The decree, which passed anyway, facilitated the partial transfer of army units and related budgetary allocations to the Royal Command Guard. Even so, it was the first time that lawmakers had ever opposed a legal procedure linked to the monarchy.

Future Forward no longer exists. Its platform in favour of democratic freedoms and army reform, as well as the popularity of its charismatic leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, made it a threat to the establishment. The outfit grew from nothing to become the country’s third-largest party in parliament in little more than a year. Legal cases against the institution and its leadership started to mount. In November Mr Thanathorn was stripped of his status as an MP. In February the party was dissolved by the constitutional court and its executives banned from politics for a decade. The judges decided that a loan Mr Thanathorn gave the party was an illegal breach of individual-donation limits.

Flash mobs mounted protests, though social-distancing measures soon put an end to them. The lull was temporary. Social media have provided an outlet for audacious criticisms. So widespread was moaning over the traffic jams caused by royal motorcades, for example, that in January the king instructed police not to close entire roads for travelling royals.

Other grumbles could not so easily be sorted. In August, after legal threats from the Thai government, Facebook blocked access from Thailand to a 1m-member group criticising the monarchy. “Requests like this are severe, contravene international-human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” the firm stated. It is preparing to mount a legal challenge.

Popular anger has moved from screens to streets. Since July protesters have gathered to call for the dissolution of the government, reform of the constitution and an end to the harassment of opposition activists. Students’ demonstrations inspired a wider swathe of Thais to march, too. Their efforts mark an evolution from the feud between red shirts and yellow shirts. New battle lines are over democratic freedoms.

Maybe this time

The boldest protesters have called openly for reform of the monarchy. They object to the king’s financial set-up and his consolidation of military power. Mr Thanathorn has also called for transparency about how state funds are spent on the monarchy.

The situation grew more serious as the protests swelled in size. The great fear is that the bloody treatment of student protesters in the 1970s will be repeated. In 1976 police, army and vigilante groups attacked students after they staged a mock hanging in protest against the killing of two pro-democracy activists. A story spread among royalists that the figure hanged resembled Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. According to official figures, 46 students died and more than 3,000 were arrested.

So far the authorities have arrested a few dozen protest leaders. The government had claimed it wanted to talk to students about their grievances. “Having a peaceful and civil dialogue where we exchange our views is the best approach for moving forward,” said the education minister. However, this week the establishment ran out of patience. If the prime minister cannot bring calm he may be replaced. Any drastic intervention is unlikely, however, without the monarch’s foreknowledge.

But King Vajiralongkorn’s clout has come at a price: open criticism of the monarchy. “The ghost is out of the bottle and you won’t get it back again,” reckons one diplomat in Bangkok. The more brazen the king’s moves towards a more absolute form of rule, the more forceful the criticism. “We are trying to bring the king and monarchy under the constitution,” explains one teenage protester. “We aren’t trying to bring them down.” King Vajiralongkorn’s actions could determine whether Thailand continues to revere royalty, or starts to revile it.





With a final update: Arrests and state of emergency

15 10 2020

Matichon reports that, early in the morning, Bangkok time, Parit Chiwarak and Arnon Nampa have been arrested.

Update 1: The Guardian reports that Arnon and Panupong Jadnok have been arrested; the report does not refer to Parit. That report also states:

Thailand’s government has banned gatherings of five or more people and the publication of news or online messages that could harm national security early on Thursday under an emergency decree to end Bangkok street protests….

“It is extremely necessary to introduce an urgent measure to end this situation effectively and promptly to maintain peace and order,” state television announced.

This declaration was made at 4am in Bangkok. It seeks to “ban big gatherings and allowing authorities to ban people from entering any area they designation.” In addition, it prohibits “publication of news, other media, and electronic information that contains messages that could create fear or intentionally distort information, creating misunderstanding that will affect national security or peace and order.”

Update 2: The Bangkok Post reproduces the above Reuters report.

Update 3: Prachatai reports movements of police riot squads and troops. It says that at “05.48 … at least 7 people reportedly [had been]… arrested.” They included Arnon, Parit, Panupong and Prasit Karutarote.

Update 4: Social media reports are that soldiers have closed parliament. Police are currently surrounding the Rajaprasong intersection (3pm) anticipating another demonstration. Plenty of people milling around after the students called for supporters to show up. Protest leaders there now facing off with police, using white bows. Social media reports that Panupong has not been captured. Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul has been arrested. With more than 20 now arrested, some are being transferred to Chiang Mai, and students there are organizing.

Update 5: Back at Rajaprasong, chanting continues, demanding the release of those arrested and the ouster of Prayuth.

Update 6: There so much going on that it is impossible to do more than watch it. Various online broadcasters are livestreaming the huge rally at Rajaprasong. Commentators say the crowd extends to from the Rajaprasong intersection to Pratunam and Paragon. The rally is a direct challenge to the regime’s declaration of a state of emergency. Students in uniform everywhere. This is a young crowd, sitting down peacefully waiting and listening. More than that, they are participating in a remarkable series of events over just more than 24 hours.

It is remarkable to hear them abuse the king, something only done privately a couple of months ago or on social media (with the associated risk of arrest).

The arrest of the movement’s most recognized leaders has had no impact. Other leaders mushroom, having cut their teeth in the many smaller demonstrations across the country in recent months.

What happens next? The next step is probably the regime’s. What does it do in the face of mass disobedience?

What’s the future for the monarchy? That depends on what happens next, but social media says the king and his family have decamped to a palace in Sakon Nakhon. (The last big change in government system came in 1932, when the king was an absolute monarch and he holidaying and golfing in Hua Hin.) Is it the beginning of the end?

Update 7: The rally ended without major incident, with a promise to come back together on Friday. Meanwhile, the regime is using the emergency decree to refuse bail for those arrested and it goes after others.





Reporting unprecedented events

14 10 2020

A quick, early morning (Bangkok time) scan of the major newspaper shows no reporting of the events where protesters confronted royals. Khaosod is the exception.

Police and/or military trucked in to act as royalist supporters. Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul and clipped from Bangkok Post

Perhaps that will change, but we imagine regime, monarchy and ruling class are shocked to see and hear protesters yelling “ai hia” at the passengers in a yellow, royal Rolls Royce (Queen Suthida and Prince Prince Dipangkorn. For ultra-royalists, it is monarchy or chaos. They will become frantic.

One immediate response is more charges and more arrests. Khaosod also reports that Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has “ordered a “strict legal action without any exception” against protesters who allegedly blocked a royal motorcade…”.

For protesters it is monarchy or democracy.

 

 





Arrests and royal traffic operations

13 10 2020

Livestreamed, some 20-24 protesters were arrested on Rajadamnoen Avenue this afternoon.

Khaosod reports that “police officers broke up a small rally held in anticipation for a larger anti-government protest set for tomorrow.” It isn’t clear why “police moved in on the rally opposite the Democracy Monument … while activist Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa was giving a speech…”.

Police had ordered the protesters to stop their activities because a royal motorcade for the king was about to pass by.

Jatuphat arrested. Clipped from the Bangkok Post

During the police royal traffic operation, a “scuffle broke out between the demonstrators and the police, and blue paint was thrown at some officers.”

Police “said the suspects would be charged with violating the Public Assembly Law for failing to notify the authorities about their rally.”

It is reported that “Jatupat and others were sent to the Royal Thai Police headquarters for questioning.”

One response was that activist Parit Chiwarak “led several hundred people to stage a protest in front of the police headquarters and demanded their unconditional release.”

Another response has been to bring the start time for the main rally forward to 8am.





The king’s pile

13 10 2020

The king and his wealth is now on the international agenda.

Two really excellent stories have appeared today and two highly-regarded outlets:

Los Angeles Times: The world’s richest king, his mysterious fortune and the protesters who want answers by Shashank Bengali.

Financial Times: The king’s money: Thailand divided over the $40bn question by John Reed.

Both articles are free to access, so read them before the regime blocks them.





Der König kehrt nach Thailand zurück II

11 10 2020

With König Vajiralongkorn back in Bangkok, his enormous cost for the country mounts.

The Bangkok Post reports that Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has warned protesters “not to disrespect the monarchy during their rally on Wednesday…”. He has attacked them as anti-monarchists and monarchy haters, and rejected proposals for reform of the monarchy. In doing so, he used terminology reminiscent of the far right murderers of 1976: “Can we allow what they have proposed, that they hate and disrespect the monarchy? Should everybody allow? [If so], I don’t think Thailand can survive…”.

All of this because “the protesters’ plan to occupy part of the route which the royal motorcade will follow to reach the ceremony.” No detours for the king it seems.

Gen Prayuth also appeared to call out royalists to “greet” the king and queen, suggesting that clashes are possible.

To “deal” with this possible “clash,” Gen Prayuth has mobilized “[a]lmost 15,000 police officers will be deployed to ‘provide safety’ for a planned anti-government rally on Wednesday.” Even though the regime reckons there will be far fewer protesters than the last rally, where there was no violence, the number of police is far larger.

Police also say they are still considering charges against the organizers of the previous rally. Arrests of those leaders before or on Wednesday could spark outrage.

The protest leaders have stated several times that they will not obstruct the royal motorcade.

As Arnon Nampa has explained: “If chaos breaks out, the police will be to blame, not the protesters…”.