Hundreds turn out in Bangkok to call for end of lese majeste

Bangkok, Oct 31 (EFE).- Hundreds of protesters led by students demonstrated in Bangkok on Sunday to demand the resignation of the Thai government and the repeal of the controversial lese majeste law.

The protest in the center of the capital comes one day before Thailand is due to reopen its borders to travelers and tourists vaccinated against Covid-19 from 62 countries with the requirement of only one night of quarantine, an initiative that hopes to revive the country’s vital tourism sector.

The rally was attended by Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, one of the student leaders facing the charge of lese majeste, also known as Article 112, which provides penalties of between 3 and 15 years for those who “defame, insult or threaten” members of the royal family.

The protesters, led by the student group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), collected signatures against the lèse-majesté law, which has been criticized by the UN and human rights groups.

At least 137 people, including top student leaders, have been charged by the authorities with violating the law because of their activities during the protests, according to the NGO Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Panusaya was responsible for reading a 10-point manifesto calling for reform of the monarchy in August 2020 that sparked a public debate on an issue that until then was considered taboo in Thai society.

The student, who is on probation after spending almost two months in prison on lese majeste charges, was included in the BBC’s list of the 100 most influential women in the world that year.

Despite the lower turnout in recent months in the demonstrations, which demand reforms to reduce the power and influence of the Thai monarchy, the authorities have continued targeting student leaders behind the movement.

The pro-democracy protests began in July 2020 to demand the resignation of the Thai Prime Minister, a new Constitution and a reduction of the power of the military.

But the boldest demand is royal reform with the aim of minimizing the monarchy’s political influence and the amendment of the lèse-majesté law.

Some leaders of the pro-democracy protests, such as Arnon Nampa and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, are currently in prison after their bail was revoked last month. EFE


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