Bangkok protesters march on German embassy, demand probe into Thai king
By Lobsang DS Subirana and Nattakarn Jeamrugeekul
Bangkok, Oct 26 (efe-epa).- Protesters rallied Monday in Bangkok to urge Berlin to open an investigation into whether Thai King Vajiralongkorn is conducting politics while in Germany.
As with previous demonstrations, the rally attracted thousands who marched to the heavily-guarded German Embassy in the Thai capital, where they held a large banner reading “Reform the monarchy.”
“We want to submit our demands [to Germany], we would like to ask Germany to launch a probe into our king, about him exercising power [from their land] and about the violations of human rights accusations,” student leader Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon, who last week was summoned by police over her involvement in the rallies, told Efe.
Up to 20,000 people – according to organizers – walked 2 kilometers from Sam Yan intersection in central Bangkok to the embassy, as leaders urged bystanders to join the rally.
“Everything [the king] does affects Thailand, he’s always at the center of [political] affairs,” a 20-year-old art student by the name of Endoo said, as she held a sign reading “The world is full of kings and queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams.”
Another protester who went by the name of Nattakarn said he was at the rally to demand for democracy and equality, adding that his family sells food and has suffered since the current regime took power.
Police lined the vicinity of the embassy with closely parked buses and officers occupied the main gate, forming several rows.
A statement read via a megaphone in Thai, English and German said people were gathering because the king’s actions were a potential “violation of German territorial sovereignty.”
Patsaravalee said speaking from a makeshift stage in front of the police cadre that she had handed the petition to Germany’s Ambassador to Thailand, Peter Prugel.
“So brave, so good, thank you,” leaders shouted mockingly as they erected another banner before a crowd of exhilarated protesters who chanted the slogan.
They were referencing a Friday incident when the king used those words to personally thank a man who two days earlier had stood in Bangkok’s Pinklao area defending the monarchy and squaring up to pro-democracy protesters while holding a portrait of the late King Bhumibol.
Thailand has one of the world’s most draconian lese-majeste laws, with insults to the crown carrying prison sentences of up to 15 years per count, making the recent acts of open mass dissent unprecedented.
“King of teleworking,” and “Not my king,” some posters read at Monday’s protest.
King Vajiralongkorn spends most of his time in the state of Bavaria, Germany, where he has stirred controversy amid allegations that he has evaded residence taxes.
He arrived in Thailand three weeks ago with Queen Suthida to participate in various events and ceremonies, including the fourth anniversary of the death of his father, King Bhumibol, on Oct. 13.
His visit has been marked by mass protests from demonstrators, who expressed their discontent almost face to face at the passage of a royal convoy in which the queen was traveling Oct. 14 in Bangkok.
Protesters brazenly flouted an emergency decree the government imposed following the incident banning gatherings of more than four people, which was officially ended Thursday.
It is not known when the monarchs will return to Germany, whose foreign minister Heiko Maas, when asked about King Vajiralongkorn during a parliamentary session earlier this month, said that his country does not allow decisions on Thai politics to be made from German soil.
Thailand’s parliament convened an emergency two-day session Monday to discuss the protests that began in July and have seen tens of thousands of demonstrators occupy parts of central Bangkok to demand the resignation of prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha, as well as reforms to the constitution and the all-powerful monarchy.