Thailand’s protesters take a break until 2021
Bangkok, Dec 15 (efe-epa).- Thailand’s protesters, who have been turning out across the country in the tens of thousands to call for democratic and monarchic reform throughout 2020, will “take a break” until next year, one of the leaders of the movement said.
Human-rights lawyer and one of the movement’s most prominent figures, Arnon Nampa, confirmed the hiatus with EFE Tuesday and said a date for resuming the protests “still needs to be discussed” with the various groups involved.
Last Thursday, when the country celebrated Constitution Day, several groups organized rallies in the historic center of the capital, Bangkok, although they were less crowded than usual and took on more of a festival atmosphere, with talks and concerts.
The wave of student-led demonstrations, which have hardened since mid-October with police using water cannon, tear gas and pepper spray against peaceful protesters, is directed against 2014 coup leader Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha, who they have asked to resign.
They are also demanding a new constitution to limit the power of the military, which has taken power in 13 coups since 1932, as the current charter was drawn up by the junta that ruled between 2014 and 2019.
The reform of the monarchy is the boldest demand of the protesters and the one that has created the most friction with the more conservative sectors of Thailand.
The demonstrators have challenged the royal family with messages that until a few months ago would have been unthinkable in public.
Arnon and at least 24 other people – including the main leaders – have been accused of the crime of lese majeste for their participation in the protests. The law protects the monarchy from criticism with punishment of up to 15 years in prison.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the throne in 2016, doesn’t enjoy the reverence of his late father Bhumibol Adulyadej, and his long stays in Germany and opulent lifestyle in Bavaria have drawn criticism during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is crippling the Thai economy.
The monarch, who has been in Thailand since mid-October, has increased his power by taking personal control of several military units in Bangkok and Crown Property Bureau assets, valued at at least $35 billion. EFE-EPA