Thousands of protesters marched to a Thai Royal Guard barrack in Bangkok on Sunday, demanding that King Maha Vajiralongkorn relinquish control of some army regiments, in the latest show of defiance of the monarchy and the army in the country.
The protest came days after rallies in the Thai capital, as a student-led pro-democracy movement that emerged in July intensified pressure on the institution.
In recent months, protesters have rocked the country by criticizing the monarchy, an institution protected by a harsh libel law, and demanding that the king give up some of his power and enormous wealth.
On Sunday evening, the protesters marched to the 11th Infantry Regiment, one of two units of the army that the king had placed under his direct command in 2019.
In a statement, the protesters accused the king of “expanding his royal powers in every way possible including.” [through] The army “referred to the prime minister, Prayut Chan Usha, a former army general, as” the king’s doll. ”
Copies of the statement were folded in kites and carried in the direction of riot police, who stood guard outside the barracks.
Protesters later sprayed red paint on the ground in front of the officers, in reference to the army’s deadly campaign against anti-government protesters in 2010.
The army base was fortified with buses removed by protesters, as well as rings of barbed wire. Many on the front lines wore gas masks and protective hats, even though the evening passed peacefully.
Protesters carried over their heads a herd of giant inflatable ducks, which appeared in the form of a duck Motion Icon After the protesters used them to protect themselves from water cannons.
Yellow ducks can be seen everywhere at recent rallies: pinned to the top of the protesters’ hard, protective hats, sold at souvenir stalls, which are worn on hair sliders. At one of the protests last week, protesters distributed vouchers containing a duck wearing a crown, which could be exchanged for street food.
The authorities responded to the recent protest movement by reviving the country’s strict law of majesty, Reportedly, up to 15 protesters have been called To respond to charges last week alone. Under the law, anyone who “denigrates, insults, or threatens the king, queen, crown prince, or regent” can face up to 15 years’ imprisonment for each count.
Among those facing the charges is Barrett Schwarak, also known as Penguin, who was charged for comments made at previous rallies. On Sunday, the king challenged the king’s military might. He said, “The army should belong to the people, not to the king.” “In a democracy, the king is not responsible for directing the command of the army.”
Vajiralongkorn succeeded his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in 2016, and has since asserted his authority, including by taking over Direct control of palace wealth Worth tens of billions of pounds. Last year, the Fuji 1st and 11th Infantry were brought under direct control, which allowed him to bypass the usual military chain of command.
The protesters said they also decided to target the regiment because of its role in previous coups d’état, and in the suppression of anti-establishment protests 10 years ago.
About 90 people were killed in 2010 after that The army launched a crackdown on the protesters Who demonstrated in the streets months ago. The military denies using excessive force.
The recent pro-democracy movement argues that the royal family – and the military, with which it is closely linked – should be transparent and accountable to the people if Thailand It is to have a real democracy.
They made three demands: reforming the monarchy, drawing up a new constitution, and removing Prayut, who first came to power in a 2014 coup. Prayut refused to step down.
The palace did not comment on the protests, although the king said he loved the demonstrators “despite everything.”
In a recent statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the protesters were able to exercise their right to peaceful assembly last week “without any hindrance.”
The statement added that the demonstrators must exercise their rights “in accordance with the relevant laws.”