Thousands of pro-democracy protesters gathered in Thailand’s capital, making it the largest rally since a military coup in 2014 that brought Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to power.
Demonstrators descended onto the campus of Bangkok’s Thammasat University, an institution that has long symbolised democracy in the country’s shaky political history. Later, they made their way into the adjacent Sanam Luang field near the royal palace.
The rally is expected to draw tens of thousands of people, with protesters planning to stay out until Sunday.
Polce have called in reinforcements.
“Today, we will continue to push for our demands,” said Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak. “As citizens, we should be able to fight for our rights. You cannot stop us. We have now broken through these first gates and we will continue to break through until we have democracy,” student activist added.
How protests started?
The protests started off at the Thammasat University on the outskirts of Bangkok over a month ago.
Students demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first seized power in a 2014 coup. The also demand greater democracy and less power for the monarchy.
Some groups have also demanded the government rewrite the constitution by the end of September to disband the military-appointed Senate and change election laws to make them more democratic, after which the government would resign and hold a new vote.
Other demands include removing a provision preventing people from bringing lawsuits against the monarchy, separating the monarch’s properties from the Crown Property Bureau, aligning the budget for the monarchy with economic conditions, banning the monarch from expressing political opinions and prohibiting the monarchy from endorsing any coups.
The Thai government view the students’ calls for more democracy as radical and antithetical to the culture, which typically reveres the monarchy as semi-divine.
The students fear that the Prime Minister is trying to create confrontation that could lead to another military intervention.