Conflicts & War

Students challenge king, govt with new protest in Bangkok

Bangkok, Oct 14 (efe-epa).- Student-led protests returned Wednesday to challenge authorities in Thailand with a demonstration to call for the government’s resignation and reforms to limit the power of the military and politics.

At least 14,000 officers were deployed in Bangkok to control protests expected to reach their peak in the late afternoon and prevent them from approaching an avenue where King Vajiralongkorn’s convoy is scheduled to pass.

The protest, which coincides with the anniversary of the beginning of the pro-democracy student demonstrations in 1973, takes place amid tensions due to skirmishes Tuesday between police officers and protesters, who threw blue paint at the agents while they were dispersed.

At least 21 students were arrested, including one of the student leaders, Jatupat “Pai Daodin” Boonpatararaksa, next to the Democracy Monument, where protesters began to gather Tuesday.

Promonarchic groups, identified with yellow t-shirts and polo shirts, were in the area to greet the monarch, who will participate in a ceremony at the Grand Royal Palace, which could cause confrontations.

Police allege the anti-government demonstration is “illegal” because it interrupts traffic and has not received authorization.

Students, who have protested almost daily since July, hope to bring together tens of thousands of people as in the last call on Aug. 19 and 20 and announced they would march to government headquarters to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Congregated under the civilian People’s Party coalition, protests are led by several student organizations that want a new constitution to be written, as they consider the current one undemocratic because it was written by the old military junta between 2014 and 2019.

They also demand the dissolution of Parliament and the holding of transparent and fair elections.

The most controversial demand is the reform of the monarchy, a taboo subject until recently due to the great respect that the institution has inspired and the law of lese-majesty, which carries prison sentences of up to 15 years for those who criticize the crown.

King Vajiralongkorn, who spends much of his time in Germany, arrived last weekend to participate in religious ceremonies and the anniversary of the death of his father, the revered King Bhumibol, who passed away Oct. 13, 2016.

The schedule of the king, who has traveled with Queen Suthida and the royal concubine, is not known, but it is believed to be his longest visit this year, as he usually does not spend more than 24 hours in the country. EFE-EPA


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