BANGKOK (The Statesman/ANN) — Thailand’s youth have once again faced the wrath of the country’s powerful establishment as they continue to demand the country’s Prime Minister should quit.
On Sunday, thousands marching to the Grand Palace, ostensibly to deliver a memorandum to King Vajiralongkorn, were restrained with water cannons, the second time this measure has been deployed.
The protests would have been especially galling to the monarchy and the government because they were propped up with visual aids guaranteed to catch the camera’s eye – among them giant-sized red pillar boxes for those wanting to “post” their grievances to the King and a huge envelope with his name written on it.
Despite the severity of the response, the youth appear determined and said they would not budge from their three demands ~ which are that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha resign, the Constitution backed by the military be amended and the monarchy’s powers be trimmed. In their missive to the monarch, the protestors said, “When you hear all the flattering praise from the people, you must also hear fearless criticisms and suggestions all the same. When the King truly cherishes democracy, all people will find happiness. The three demands from the people are the utmost compromise.”
The demand to trim the monarch’s role is especially contentious and has been provoked by his decision to take personal control of two Army units, and to transfer the Crown’s huge assets to his own name. In addition, King Vajiralongkorn has faced wide criticism for his long stays in Bavaria, Germany, at state cost. Some aspects of the protests are noteworthy. First, they seem to continue relentlessly even in the absence ~ because of arrest ~ of those who were thought to be its leaders.
Second, they are dominated by young people and crowds have contained even high school students. Despite the presence of so many young people and even in the absence of leaders who could rein them in from being provoked, the protests have been entirely peaceful.
Finally, through adroit use of social media, protestors have been able to run rings around security forces; last month, for instance, when police cordoned off a site before protestors could gather there, they were able to regroup at an alternate site within an hour.
The ruling establishment has tried several things to stop the protestors but have largely failed. Loyal royalists have tried to counter them with their own gatherings, including one where the King was spotted addressing the group approvingly, but without much success.
The government tried to buy time by convening a special session of Parliament to discuss the changes that protestors want, but this was inconclusive and has been rescheduled to later this month. One side will have to blink soon, and the youth seem determined to show it will not be them.