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World Tensions mount in Thai protests as Bangkok braces for major rally

05:30  24 november  2020
05:30  24 november  2020 Source:   msn.com

Thousands of Thai protesters call for removal of prime minister

  Thousands of Thai protesters call for removal of prime minister Thousands of Thai protesters call for removal of prime ministerBANGKOK (Reuters) - Thousands of people protested in Bangkok on Saturday in the latest in months of anti-government demonstrations that have also called for reforms to Thailand’s powerful monarchy.

Thousands of protesters staged another anti-government rally in the Thai capital, Bangkok , on Sunday to demand political reforms. Demonstrators want a revised constitution and are also calling for reform of the monarchy - a sensitive subject in Thailand . Under Thai law, anyone criticising the royal

In Thailand , protests have been ongoing since early 2020. Beginning first as demonstrations against the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha

Tensions are rising around Thailand's pro-democracy protests, with police shooting six people last week and using tear gas and water cannon on the streets of Bangkok.

a man standing in front of a crowd posing for the camera: Pro-democracy protesters hold up the three-finger salute at a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok © Jack TAYLOR Pro-democracy protesters hold up the three-finger salute at a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok a close up of a toy: Yellow rubber ducks have become a symbol for the ongoing protests © Lillian SUWANRUMPHA Yellow rubber ducks have become a symbol for the ongoing protests

As the Thai capital braces for the next major rally on Wednesday, AFP takes a look at the forces in play and what might come next in a country with a long history of political unrest.

a group of people standing around a fire: Green smoke engulfs a line of police near parliament in Bangkok © Cory WRIGHT Green smoke engulfs a line of police near parliament in Bangkok

- Protesters getting tough -

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Thousands of people have protested in the Thai capital Bangkok calling for reform of the political system, including the role of the monarchy. The calls for royal reform are particularly sensitive in Thailand , with criticism of the monarchy punishable by long prison sentences.

The emergency decree follows weeks of protests in Thailand and a large demonstration on Tens of thousands of people, including high-school students, gathered in Bangkok on Thursday, defying a It follows a major rally on Wednesday, in which protesters repeated calls for democratic reforms

After four months of rallies, sometimes involving tens of thousands of demonstrators, the mood is getting tougher, with protest leaders warning they are not prepared to compromise.

Slogans and insults against the monarchy -- unthinkable only a short time ago -- are proliferating, while riot police showed last week they are ready to take firm action against the rallies.

The student-led movement has gained a strong base on the streets and social media and experts say the "Red Shirts", a once-vociferous group who led major street protests a decade ago, may join the ranks.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: King Maha Vajiralongkorn has talked to supporters and declared his © Madaree TOHLALA King Maha Vajiralongkorn has talked to supporters and declared his "love" for all Thais

The movement is calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha -- who came to power in a coup in 2014 -- to quit, for constitutional changes and for reform of the monarchy.

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BANGKOK — A confrontation between the Thai authorities and antigovernment demonstrators that has escalated in recent days jumped to an uncertain new phase on Friday, as protesters were forcibly dispersed and two of the movement’s participants were charged with violating an obscure law against

Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand have confronted a motorcade carrying members of the royal family as it passed through a rally in Bangkok . The protests on Wednesday follow months of escalating tension in the country. media captionThe BBC's Jonathan Head says the Thai government

Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, professor of political science at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, told AFP the movement needs to prioritise its demands and focus its leadership on a few prominent figureheads if it is to make progress.

But with their taboo-smashing demands for reform of the monarchy, Siripan said, the protesters have already "allowed the emergence of a new political culture, pushing for a freedom of expression unprecedented in the history of the kingdom".

a group of people playing instruments and performing on a stage: Pro-democracy protesters take shelter from police water cannons in Bangkok © Jack TAYLOR Pro-democracy protesters take shelter from police water cannons in Bangkok

- Authorities 'playing by ear' -

The authorities have had a cautious response to the movement since it sprang up in July -- announcing emergency measures then withdrawing them, arresting protest leaders then freeing them again.

"Since the beginning of the movement, the government has played it by ear," said Paul Chambers of Naresuan University.

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Thousands of high school students upset about Thailand 's lacklustre education system rallied alongside protestors dressed as dancing dinosaurs in Bangkok on Saturday. © Mladen ANTONOV Thai protestors dressed as dinosaurs rally with students for reform of the education system.

Thai protesters rally in Bangkok defying state of emergency. Tens of thousands gather in the Thai capital Another huge anti-government rally has taken place in central Bangkok , just hours after police Thai police and protesters scuffled in Bangkok on Tuesday on the eve of a major planned

Unlike previous Thai protest movements, the majority of the demonstrators are young middle-class city dwellers.

The authorities may be wary of tarnishing Thailand's international image with a repeat of the crackdown on the Red Shirts in 2010 that left 90 people dead in the heart of Bangkok's tourist and shopping district.

However, the authorities have hardened their tone in recent days, brandishing the threat of "section 112" -- the kingdom's famously strict royal defamation laws, which carry up to 15 years in prison.

- Royal charm offensive -

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, not seen much in public before the protest movement, has launched a charm offensive, making numerous appearances, talking to supporters and declaring his "love" for all Thais.

But he remains a controversial figure and does not enjoy the same level of affection built up by his late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, during his seven decades on the throne, which ended in 2016.

The present king has strengthened his powers by taking direct control of the royal fortune and army units.

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"There is evidently a campaign to rally legitimacy. At issue is whether this should have been done much earlier, whether there is still sufficient time," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, head of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

- A violent climax? -

Thailand has often seen protest movements end in bloodshed -- twice in the 1970s, then in 1992 and in 2010 -- and experts warn a repeat could be brewing.

Chambers said "ultra-royalist right-wing groups" are already forming to harass democracy demonstrators.

Some are talking of a possible coup, to add to the dozen Thailand has seen since its move to democracy in 1932.

In the short term, next week brings a potential watershed with a judgment expected in a constitutional court case against Prayut for allegedly misusing the army chief's official residence.

If he loses, he looks set to be thrown out of office -- a development that would likely take much of the immediate tension out of the unrest on the streets.

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Thai Protesters to Target King’s Wealth in Latest Bangkok Rally .
Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand planned to rally outside the main office of the nation’s most valuable lender, in which King Maha Vajiralongkorn is the biggest shareholder, as they push for more transparency and accountability from the monarchy. © Photographer: Sirachai Arunrugstichai/Getty Images AsiaPac BANGKOK, THAILAND - NOVEMBER 22: Protesters make three finger salutes on November 22, 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand. Students and "red shirt" demonstrators held a carnival-themed pro-democracy protest on Sunday, as part of a series of protests that have taken place demanding constitutional reforms.

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