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World These Are Key Players to Watch in Thailand’s Political Upheaval

03:40  24 october  2020
03:40  24 october  2020 Source:   bloomberg.com

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(Bloomberg) -- Thailand is besieged by the biggest anti-government protests in years with a youth-driven movement declaring every participant as a leader. That’s making it tough for authorities to wear down the pop-up demonstrations calling for the government’s ouster and monarchy reforms.

The mass gatherings are set to continue after demonstrators rejected Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s overtures for a truce by revoking a state of emergency in Bangkok and convening a special parliament session to discuss the protests. The activists have threatened to intensify protests if the premier failed to meet a three-day deadline to quit.

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Thailand ’ s growing protest movement, which was set off by student activism last month, has since gained broader support. While Thailand has escaped the brunt of the pandemic, it has been pummeled economically, and millions are out of work.

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At the center of the growing political tension is the pro-democracy movement -- comprising mostly of millennial professionals and university students -- as well as the establishment headed by Prayuth and the monarchy.

Here are the players who will play a vital role in shaping the outcome of the protest movement.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn

At the apex of power in Thailand, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has been consolidating his power and wielding his authority more overtly since taking the throne in 2016. Vajiralongkorn’s wealth in particular has become a source of resentment, with protesters demanding more government control over royal assets that include landholdings and sizable stakes in two of the nation’s biggest listed companies: Siam Commercial Bank Pcl and Siam Cement Pcl. Demonstrators are also questioning taxpayer funds that go toward royal affairs as well as laws that stifle discussion of the monarchy.

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Prayuth Chan-Ocha

a person wearing a suit and tie: Key Speakers at Bloomberg Live Asean Business Summit © Bloomberg Key Speakers at Bloomberg Live Asean Business Summit

Prayuth Chan-Ocha

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

The face of the current administration, Prayuth is a former army chief who took power after a 2014 coup. His military government appointed a panel to draft the current constitution, which protesters view as instrumental in helping Prayuth retain his power after the 2019 general elections. Prayuth’s overtures to end the protests have failed to convince the activists. While his government is open to rewriting unspecified parts of the constitution, Prayuth has rejected calls to resign. The former general says the government’s key task is to “look after the needs of everyone in this country.”

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  Thai protesters ask court to revoke order, continue rallies BANGKOK (AP) — Student activists applied to a Bangkok court Wednesday to revoke a state of emergency the government declared last week to try to rein in Thailand's growing protests. Demonstrations have continued daily in a movement that calls for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, for a more democratic constitution and for reforms to the monarchy — a revered institution traditionally treated as sacrosanct in Thailand. Protesters wereDemonstrations have continued daily in a movement that calls for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, for a more democratic constitution and for reforms to the monarchy — a revered institution traditionally treated as sacrosanct in Thailand.

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Youth Groups

a group of people wearing costumes and standing in front of a crowd: Pro-Democracy Protests Continue Across Thailand © Getty Images via Bloomberg Pro-Democracy Protests Continue Across Thailand

Protesters attend a rally in Bangkok on Oct. 21.

Photographer: Getty Images

The protesters are banded together under different groups, such as Free Youth and United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, which use social media platforms such as the Facebook, Twitter and Telegram to mobilize on short notice. While the movement has several well-known faces, everyone showing up for the protest is a leader, according to Arthitaya Pornprom, one of the protest organizers. That allows the movement to persist even after the arrests of dozens of activists, and the apolitical nature of the group has helped draw support from all sections of society.

Thai Protesters Are Using Emojis to Stay Ahead of Police

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Thailand's Opposition Leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Warns of Protests Against Military © Bloomberg Thailand's Opposition Leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit Warns of Protests Against Military

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit

Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

Banned opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit is among the most vocal critics of Prayuth’s administration and the government footing monarchy’s budget. He lost to Prayuth in the vote to elect the prime minister last year, and his political party was disbanded by a court order for breaking financing rules. The dissolution started the first wave of pro-democracy protests that faded following a lockdown to curb coronavirus infections, before restarting again in mid-July. He’s stood by the protesters and said Prayuth’s government won’t last its full term.

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Thai Government Has Lost Public’s Trust, Banned Leader Says

Arnon Nampa

Lawyer Arnon Nampa was the first protest leader to openly question the monarchy’s role in Thai politics. His call for the monarchy’s powers to be reined in became the catalyst for the protest movement even though criticisms of top royals are punishable by up 15 years in prison. Arnon has been arrested on multiple occasions on charges including sedition, which can lead to a jail sentence of as many as seven years. But the 36-year old activist from northeastern Thailand has inspired many young Thais to break the deeply entrenched taboos in publicly calling for reduced powers of the king.

Thailand’s Dilemma: Silence Students or Allow Monarchy Criticism

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a 22-year-old Thammasat University student, shot into limelight after reading out a list of demands for monarchy reform at a protest rally in August. The demands, penned by her friend and another prominent leader, Parit Chiwarak, included a call for revoking the country’s strict lese-majeste laws criminalizing insults against top members of the royal family. Other demands included aligning the budget for the monarchy with economic conditions, and prohibiting the monarch from expressing political opinions and endorsing any coups. Panusaya too has been arrested and charged with sedition.

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Thailand rocked by protests as prime minister won't step down .
"We see the people need change in Thailand," a TV anchor said. "We've been under a dictatorship for the past seven years.""The prime minister must resign," said opposition leader Sompong Amornwiwat, echoing demands of tens of thousands of protestors who had set a deadline of last Saturday for the premier to step down. Prayuth refused.

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