THAIS REVOLT, WANT ABSENTEE KING’S POWERS CLIPPED
Experts say this week could be a watershed moment for the ongoing protest movement in Thailand, which is calling for a new constitution, the dissolution of parliament and resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, as well as an end of intimidation of government critics.
Many are also calling for a true constitutional monarchy that would limit King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s powers under a democratic system, Helen Regan and Kocha Olarn reported for CNN.
Protest leaders expect a large turnout, but there are questions over whether they are pushing too hard for reform of the monarchy, and whether people will come out onto the streets during a sensitive time and October downpours. The King, who spends more of his time in Germany, is in town. It was the late King's memorial day and Wednesday marks the anniversary of the 1973 mass uprising against military dictatorship.
"I expect that the government would control this protest very hard," said Punchada Sirivunnabood, associate professor of politics at Mahidol University's Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities. Those calling for monarchical reform are risking lengthy prison sentences. Thai citizens are expected to revere the monarch without question and criticizing the King, Queen or heir apparent, is punishable by some of the world's strictest lese mejeste laws. But those taboos are being broken. What began as anti-government student-led rallies in cities across the country, has since grown into a movement attracting a large cross-section of society. An August 16 protest in Bangkok attracted an estimated 10,000 people and in mid-September thousands came out once again, with protesters laying a plaque near the Grand Palace that read, "Here, the people declare that this place belongs to the people, not the King."
"It is now or never. The root cause of political problems stemmed from this institution, we couldn't just dance around and ignore it anymore more," said Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a 21-year-old student who has become a central figure of the new student movement. "Otherwise we are going to end up in the same vicious political cycle again. Coups after coups with endorsement from the King."