Conflicts & War

Thai authorities remove pro-democracy protesters’ plaque

Bangkok, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- Thai authorities removed a pro-democracy plaque from Bangkok’s Grand Palace on Monday, less than 24 hours after it was installed by protesters.

The metal plate was embedded in cement near the building in the city’s historic center on Sunday by student activists during a massive protest demanding democratic reforms and a reduction in the monarch’s power.

It was inscribed with the words “Thailand belongs to the people” in a similar message to one previously placed there in memory of the 1932 Siamese revolution which mysteriously disappeared in 2017 and was replaced by a pro-monarchy design.

Jirapat Phumjit, deputy director of the Bangkok police, said at a press conference that the protesters’ plaque was removed by police and city officials and will be sent for forensic testing.

He added that its installation and holding the demonstration without a permit may be punishable offenses and that the police have received complaints from the district office and Department of Fine Arts.

The plaque was also inscribed with Sunday’s date and a hand with the three central fingers raised, a symbol of the demonstrations and a gesture of opposition to the government.

It was installed in Sanam Luang public square in front of the Grand Palace, where 10,000s of demonstrators gathered over the weekend in the biggest protest since Thailand’s coup d’état in 2014.

The rally was part of a student movement that began in July calling for constitutional reforms and the dissolution of parliament, which they consider a successor to the military junta led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, as well as a reduction in the power and influence of the army in politics.

Their most contentious demand is limiting the monarchy’s power, subjecting it to constitutional controls and ending a lèse majesté law that lays down prison terms of up to 15 years for criticizing the royal household.

The current monarch King Vajiralongkorn has not inherited the charisma and respect enjoyed by his late father Bhumibol Adulyadej and spends a large part of the year in Germany, drawing criticism during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-monarchy protests have included calls on social media to boycott Siam Commercial Bank, one of the largest banks in the country and which Vajiralongkorn owns just over 23 percent of the shares.

Vajiralongkorn has been consolidating his power in recent years, taking command of two key army units, assuming personal control of the crown’s properties and imposing changes to the 2017 constitution so that it is no longer necessary to appoint a regent when he is abroad.

Despite the economic crisis caused by Covid-19, the government approved a 16 percent increase in the royal household’s annual budget on Saturday to $286 million, which includes the maintenance of a fleet of 38 airplanes and helicopters. EFE-EPA


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