Thailand Protests: Activists Lay People's Plaque Challenging The Monarchy And Call For Democratic Reform

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Thailand Protests: Activists Lay People's Plaque Challenging The Monarchy And Call For Democratic Reform

Anti-government protesters in Thailand have placed a plaque near the Grand Palace stating that 'Thailand belongs to the people', in what is a bold stance against the nation's Monarchy. The plaque read in full:

"The people have expressed the intention that this country belongs to the people, and not the king."

The Thai monarchy has a huge influence over state affairs and is protected by extreme laws that allow for the imprisonment of anyone offending the King. The event has transpired amidst a growing student protest movement calling for the reform of Thai politics.

It is thought last week's demonstration attracted as many as 18,000 individuals who were demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power in a coup in 2014. They wish to see new democratic elections, a rewriting of the constitution, and democratic liberalisation of the wider political process. At the protests, demonstrators could be heard chanting:

"Down with feudalism, long live the people."

Despite the provocation, the protest passed off peacefully, with authorities cautious about escalating the situation.

This latest bout of political action was sparked when the government ordered a new reformist political party, The Future Forward Party (FFP), to disband, and by the disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia, a pro-democracy figurehead who had been in exile since 2014.

A 10 point reform program has been presented by activists and it is hoped that this will provide a framework for lasting change in the country. However, it has been dismissed by pro-monarchy hardliners.

Many in Thailand have historically seen the monarchy as a bulwark against communism in the region, particularly during the Cold War, when Thailand's neighbours, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam all fell to communist regimes. In the case of Cambodia this led to the deaths of 3 million people.

It isn't just Thais who have felt the wrath of Thailand's laws against insulting the monarchy. Over the years many tourists have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. A Swiss tourist, Oliver Rudolf Jufer, then 57, was jailed for 10 years in Thailand in 2007 for allegedly damaging an image of the King while drunk. He was originally sentenced to 20 years, but this was reduced on account of his guilty plea. He could have faced a maximum penalty of 75 years.

Such incidents bring to light the sheer power of the monarchy in Thai society, where despite growing opposition, many individuals regard the monarch as being semi-divine.

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Thinking Humanity: Thailand Protests: Activists Lay People's Plaque Challenging The Monarchy And Call For Democratic Reform
Thailand Protests: Activists Lay People's Plaque Challenging The Monarchy And Call For Democratic Reform
Anti-government protesters in Thailand have placed a plaque near the Grand Palace stating that 'Thailand belongs to the people',
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