The Daily Telegraph
Pro-democracy protesters demand end to Thai ‘dictatorship’ during mass gathering
AN ANTI-GOVERNMENT protest in Thailand drew at least 10,000 people yesterday, police said, the largest political demonstration the kingdom has seen in years as a pro-democracy movement gathers steam.
Student-led groups have held neardaily protests across the country for the past month to denounce Prayut Chan-o-cha, the prime minister and former army chief who led a 2014 coup, and his military-aligned administration. By yesterday evening the protesters – who are demanding major democratic reforms – had taken over the busy intersection around Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, which was built to mark the 1932 revolution that ended royal absolutism.
“Down with the dictatorship,” the students chanted, many holding signs critical of the administration. Others held pigeon-shaped cutouts representing peace.
The gathering at Democracy Monument is the largest the kingdom has seen since Mr Prayut staged a putsch in 2014.
Tensions have risen over the last two weeks with authorities arresting three activists.
They were released on bail after being charged with sedition and violating coronavirus rules. They were told not to repeat the alleged offences, but one of them – prominent student leader Parit Chiwarak – arrived at the protest venue yesterday flanked by cheering supporters.
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.
“Give a deadline to dictatorship” and “let it end at our generation” were the top Twitter hashtags in Thailand yesterday. The protesters are demanding an overhaul of the government and a rewriting of the 2017 military-scripted constitution, which they believe skewed last year’s election in favour of Mr Prayut’s military-aligned party.
A rally last week by around 4,000 demonstrators also called for the abolition of a law protecting Thailand’s unassailable monarchy, and for a frank discussion about its role in Thailand.
Maha Vajiralongkorn, the king of Thailand, sits at the apex of Thai power, flanked by the military and the country’s billionaire business elite.
Under a draconian “112” law, people convicted can be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison per charge.