Thousands protest in Bangkok demanding gov't resignation

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 16, 2020

Student groups have rallied nearly daily around the country since July 18, calling for an end to military influence over Thai politics after a disputed election last year kept junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister five years after he first took power in a 2014 army coup.

Demonstrators want a revised constitution and are also calling for reform of the monarchy - a sensitive subject in Thailand.

Thailand has strict lese-majeste laws criminalising insults against top members of the royal family, which have resulted in lengthy jail sentences.

There have been nearly daily student-led demonstrations in recent weeks.

Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, 22, was arrested on the outskirts of Bangkok while traveling to a protest, a video posted on his Facebook page showed.

Thai authorities arrested a student leader on Friday over an anti-government protest last month, police said, just a few days before a big demonstration scheduled for Sunday.

"We are here from all different groups, all different ages", said one protester, a 29-year-old student who only gave their name as Kukkik.

Student-led groups have held near-daily protests across the country for the past month to denounce Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha - a former army chief who led a 2014 coup - and his military-aligned administration. He remained in the post after a general election previous year.

They waved banners and chanted: "Down with dictatorship, long live democracy".

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says recent inclusion of the monarchy in the protesters' demands has electrified the debate.

Nearby, dozens of supporters of the monarchy also staged a rally.

Vehicles were barred from entering the area for the safety of the demonstrators, while police were using the compound of Satriwithaya School as a command centre for officers to maintain law and order.

Last year's elections were the first since the military seized power in 2014 and for many young people they were seen as an opportunity for change.

Partly inspired by the Hong Kong democracy movement, the protesters claim to be leaderless and have relied mostly on social media campaigns to draw support across the country.

Protests were held, but were quickly halted by Covid-19 restrictions. The Thai government has denied any involvement in his disappearance.

Somprasong said Parit will be charged for breaching internal security by "raising unrest and disaffection", as well as for breaching coronavirus regulations banning public gatherings by helping organise a demonstration on July 18.

The student leaders have been released on bail pending further investigation, but police say arrest warrants have been issued for a further 12 protest leaders.

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