Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 12 October 2020


Thai Protesters Plan to Surround PM’s Office, Openly Defy King

  • Demonstrators are ‘escalating our movement,’ one leader says
  • Prime Minister Prayuth calls for citizens to maintain peace
Thai protesters attend a rally outside of the Thai Parliament on Sept. 24. 
Thai protesters attend a rally outside of the Thai Parliament on Sept. 24.  Photographer: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

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Thai protesters calling for reform of the monarchy plan to surround the prime minister’s office on Wednesday and openly defy King Maha Vajiralongkorn, according to a key leader of the demonstrations.

The gathering will start in an area near the Grand Palace and conclude with a march to Government House, the main office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, according to Parit Chiwarak, one of the organizers who wrote a 10-point demand calling for monarchy reform. He said protesters plan to camp out around the complex until the weekend.

“We’re escalating our movement -- the goal would be to surround the Government House,” Parit said, adding that he expects it to be their biggest demonstration yet. Parit said he doesn’t expect the government to use force to disperse protesters because that’d be “the end for them.”

The demonstration will take place on a route that Vajiralongkorn is expected to use to attend a scheduled event nearby. Parit said they will give the passing royal motorcade a three-finger salute -- one of the symbols of the escalating protest movement, which attracted about 50,000 people at a rally last month.

The protesters have called for the resignation of Prayuth and his military-backed government, and a rewriting of the constitution drafted after a 2014 coup he led that helped him stay on following elections last year. They’re also calling to rein in some powers of the monarchy, such as prohibiting the king from endorsing any coups and revoking restrictive laws that criminalize insults against top members of the royal family.

“I’d like to ask all citizens to maintain peace and order as much as possible, to respect the law and to not get in the way of other people,” Prayuth said at a briefing on Monday, without directly mentioning the planned protest.

Deputy Premier Prawit Wongsuwan, who oversees security affairs, said on Monday that the government has prepared for the planned protest. Prawit said he doesn’t expect a large number of demonstrators and is still open to have a discussion with the group, which has rejected talks with him.

School and university students, as well as labor groups and the movement supporters outside of Bangkok, are expected to be at the gathering, Parit said. The date was chosen to mark the anniversary of a 1973 uprising in which dozens of student protesters were killed.

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