Thai protests: Thousands rally in Bangkok to demand reforms

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The latest protests were led by student groups (Photo: Jonathan Head)


Thousands of protesters staged another anti-government rally in Thailand’s capital Bangkok on Sunday to demand political reforms.

Protesters want a revised constitution and also call for reform of the monarchy – a hot topic in Thailand.

Under Thai law, anyone who criticizes the royal family can face long prison terms.

There have been almost daily student-led protests in recent weeks.

Several protest leaders were arrested.

But organizers said they hoped Sunday’s rally would show broader support for the change beyond student groups.

“We are here from all different groups, of all different ages,” said one protester, a 29-year-old student who only gave his name to Kukkik.

Observers said Sunday’s protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument was one of the biggest anti-government protests since Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha took power in a coup in 2014.

They waved banners and chanted: “Down with dictatorship, long live democracy”.

Protesters are demanding Mr Prayuth – a former general who won a contested election last year – to step down.

Jonathan Head of the BBC in Bangkok said the recent inclusion of the monarchy in protesters’ demands has electrified the debate.

About 600 police officers were monitoring the demonstration.

Nearby, dozens of supporters of the monarchy also staged a rally.

Last year’s election was the first since the military took power in 2014 and for many young people it was seen as an opportunity for change.

But the military had taken steps to strengthen its political role and the elections saw Mr Prayuth resettled.

Mr Prayuth says the majority of Thais do not support the protesters.

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EPA

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Police stood guard at the monument to democracy


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EPA

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The demonstration was peaceful and good-natured


The latest wave of protests began in February after the pro-democracy Future Forward Party (FFP) was dissolved by court order.

Protests took place, but were quickly halted by the Covid-19 restrictions.

Tensions escalated in June when Wanchalearm Satsaksit, a leading activist who had been living in Cambodia in exile since 2014, disappeared. The Thai government has denied any involvement in his disappearance.

Student protests erupted again on July 18, despite a ban on mass gatherings under the state of emergency in the country. Since then, rallies have taken place almost daily.

Last week, prominent student leader Parit Chiwarak, 22, was arrested and faces charges of sedition, assault and holding an event that could spread disease.

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