World News – UA – Anti-government Thai protesters and royalists take to the streets of Bangkok


Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters and royalist supporters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn staged rival displays of force in the country’s capital this week after three months of protests

On Wednesday, anti-government protesters moved from the Democracy Monument in Bangkok to the official government compound to demand the departure of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, former head of the junta, and a new constitution

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They also called for limiting the king’s constitutional powers and transferring to him the personal control he has taken over certain army units and a palace fortune valued at tens of billions of dollars

They also stated that M Prayuth, who seized power in a coup in 2014, manipulated elections last year to ensure the continued grip of the military

A few yards away, a mix of security forces, state employees and royalists had all dressed up in royal yellow before a royal procession passed along the road

Despite a few brief scuffles, the two sides remained mostly separate, but the standoff rekindled fears of unrest in a country that suffered a decade of street violence between establishment supporters and opponents before the coup of 2014

Royalist leader Buddha Issara said protesters can demand democracy, but should not call for reforms of the monarchy, as some have done

Protesters issued a rare direct challenge to the king on Tuesday, chanting his passing convoy after 21 activists were arrested in clashes with police

The protests have become the biggest challenge in years for a ruling establishment dominated by the military and the palace

Soontaraphon Koonnalei, a flight attendant at the rally, told the ABC that she came because she wanted Thailand to be democratic like other countries she has been to

« This is the start I am part of the generation that will change this country, my beloved country, » said Ms Koonnalei, 26.

« You can’t say I’m here because I hate my country, I love my country and I want it to be better »

Ms Koonnalei added that she believed the most pressing issue was the harassment and arrest of opposition activists

« We can’t change everything at once, but for now, for me, [stop] the harassment of people first and then if we can change that, maybe the monarchy later », she declared

Government spokeswoman Anucha Burapachaisri said police were told to avoid unnecessary confrontations and nearly 15,000 police officers had been deployed to maintain order

Police did not intervene as protesters removed potted plants they said authorities had placed at the Democracy Monument to prevent them from reaching what became the focus of the protests

The royal palace did not respond to any requests for comment on the protests or the protesters’ demands

The pro-royalist protests were small, compared to the tens of thousands who joined the biggest anti-government protest in September, but Wednesday’s rally of royalists was much larger

« The Thai establishment is playing a very dangerous game, mobilizing state security forces and ultra-royalist groups to confront pro-democracy protesters, » said Prajak Kongkirati, professor at Thammasat University

This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and BBC World Service which is copyrighted and may not be reproduced

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

Demonstration, Thailand, Bangkok, Prayut Chan-o-cha

World News – AU – Anti-government Thai protesters and royalists take to the streets of the dead end of Bangkok



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