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World Thai protesters challenge monarchy with symbolic plaque

04:30  20 september  2020
04:30  20 september  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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By Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Matthew Tostevin

Student leaders install a plaque declaring © Reuters/JORGE SILVA Student leaders install a plaque declaring "This country belongs to the people" during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and reforms in the monarchy, near the Grand Palace in Bangkok

BANGKOK (Reuters) - In a challenge to the monarchy of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, protesters on Sunday cemented a plaque in the field next to the Grand Palace in Bangkok that declares Thailand belongs to the people and not to him.

What's behind Thailand's protests and what comes next?

  What's behind Thailand's protests and what comes next? A pro-democracy movement led by student groups has gathered pace across Thailand for the last couple of months, with some activists openly calling for reforms of the kingdom's unassailable monarchy. Historians -- and even the student leaders themselves -- have raised the spectre of a previous student-led movement. That ended in October 1976 in what became known as the Thammasat University massacre.Students protesting against the return of a military dictator were shot, beaten to death and lynched by state forces and royalist mobs.

Protests that have been growing in the southeast Asian country since July have broken a long-standing taboo by criticising the monarchy as well as seeking to oust the government and bring in a new constitution and elections.

a group of people looking at each other: Student leaders install a plaque near the Grand Palace in Bangkok © Reuters/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA Student leaders install a plaque near the Grand Palace in Bangkok

The plaque was cemented in the area known as Sanam Luang - Royal Field - shortly after sunrise. It reads "At this place the people have expressed their will: that this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us."

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Pro-democracy protesters wake up in front of the Grand Palace after camping during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's government and reforms in the monarchy, in Bangkok © Reuters/JORGE SILVA Pro-democracy protesters wake up in front of the Grand Palace after camping during a mass rally to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's government and reforms in the monarchy, in Bangkok

The Royal Palace was not immediately available for comment.

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Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said police would not use violence against protesters and it was up to them to determine and prosecute any illegal speech. Police were not immediately available for comment.

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Pro-democracy protesters attend a mass rally in Bangkok © Reuters/SOE ZEYA TUN Pro-democracy protesters attend a mass rally in Bangkok

At the biggest demonstration in years on Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters cheered calls for reform of the monarchy as well as for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former junta leader.

a group of people standing in front of a large crowd of people: Pro-democracy protesters attend a mass rally in Bangkok © Reuters/SOE ZEYA TUN Pro-democracy protesters attend a mass rally in Bangkok

"The nation belongs to no one person but to all of us," one of the protest leaders, Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, announced at the ceremony for installing the plaque. "Down with feudalism, long live the people."

Police have held back from the protest and made no attempt to intervene.

Protesters have said they will march from the scene of the ceremony at 8 a.m. (0100 GMT).

Thai protesters’ plaque removed from near palace - police

  Thai protesters’ plaque removed from near palace - police Thai protesters’ plaque removed from near palace - policeThe plaque was placed on Sunday after a weekend rally by tens of thousands of people who cheered calls for reforms to the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

The plaque resembles one removed without explanation from outside one of the royal palaces in 2017, after Vajiralongkorn took the throne. That plaque, which had commemorated the end of absolute monarchy in 1932, was replaced by one with a pro-monarchist slogan.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Chris Reese)


Video: Thai protest targets government and monarchy (Reuters)

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