Thousands of protesters — calling for the resignation of PM Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s government and reform of the monarchy — filled a busy traffic intersection in Thailand’s capital on Sunday, ignoring a ban on gatherings and threat of crackdowns by the police.
Demonstrators braved rain to gather around Victory Monument, one of the main centers for Bangkok’s public transit, with some holding up pictures of detained protesters and demanding their immediate release. Protests were also reported from other parts of the capital and and in more than a dozen provinces including Nonthaburi, Chonburi and Khon Kaen after organisers called for rallies across the nation.
Organisers used social media platforms to mobilise crowds to avoid being thwarted by authorities as the protests, mostly peaceful so far, continued for the fifth day. Authorities closed several rail stations ahead of the protests and Prayuth ordered police to be on the lookout for groups that may incite violence during the rallies.
The protesters have broken long-held taboos about publicly criticising the royal family and questioned laws that stifle discussion of monarchy. They’re calling for resignation of Prayuth’s government and a rewriting of the constitution, which was drafted by a military-appointed panel after the premier, a former army chief, took power in a 2014 coup.
The activists say the charter was instrumental in helping Prayuth retain power after the 2019 elections. “The government may start the process for charter amendment to reduce some pressure but it likely won’t result in everything that the protesters demand,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor of politics at Mahidol University near Bangkok.