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Thai demonstrators call for political reforms in biggest rally since 2014 coup

On Sunday (Aug 16), thousands of protesters gathered in Bangkok’s Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Thailand's biggest demonstration since a military coup in 2014.

Thai demonstrators call for political reforms in biggest rally since 2014 coup

Democracy Monument is surrounded by tens of thousands of people calling for political reforms. Many of them are young people. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

BANGKOK: On Sunday (Aug 16), thousands of protesters gathered in Bangkok’s Ratchadamnoen Avenue in Thailand's biggest demonstration since a military coup in 2014. It was organised by Free People, a youth group calling for political reforms in Thailand.

The student-led demonstration calls for political reforms in Thailand. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo) ​​​​​​​

Loud applause greeted a rendition of the Les Miserables tune - Do You Hear The People Sing? - by a group of demonstrators. Following that was a speech by human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa. He was arrested and then released on bail just over a week ago for his involvement with a previous anti-government rally.

“We’ve received a formal request that we maintain our three proposals only,” Arnon said onstage.

The lawyer referred to the protesters’ main demands for the government under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. They include the dissolution of the House of Representatives, charter amendments and an end to public harassment by state officials.

Demonstrators call for House dissolution, charter amendments, end of public harassment by officials. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

“As for the request for our biggest dream, that is to see the monarchy remain with Thai society and truly stay above politics, they asked us not to keep dreaming,” he said.

“I’d like to declare here that we will keep dreaming. We will keep dreaming. We will keep dreaming, definitely.”

Arnon’s speech came after another student-led rally at Thammasart University on Aug 10, where students called for 10 reforms of the monarchy. They include curbing the King’s powers and ending Article 112 of Thailand's criminal code.

Demonstrators sit on the Ratchadamnoen Avenue during the anti-government protest. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

Commonly known as the lese majeste law, Article 112 punishes whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent with imprisonment of three to 15 years.

However, Gen Prayut said in June the lese majeste law has not been enforced recently because King Maha Vajiralongkorn “has mercy and does not want it to be used”.

READ: Prominent Thai democracy activist Parit Chiwarak arrested

READ: Thai police arrest 2 leaders of student protests

The student-led rally on Sunday began in the afternoon. Plastic doves were held up on poles near the Democracy Monument as throngs of people started to take up space on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.

Doves made by protesters are flown near Bangkok’s Democracy Monument at a student-led rally against Thai government. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)
The protesters made doves to symbolise peace. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

The heat was intense and a few people fainted. Still, more kept coming to join the demonstration and call for political reform. Many of them were students, including activist Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak.

Like Arnon, he was recently arrested and released on bail over his role in a previous anti-government protest. One of the charges against him is sedition.

Many protesters came with banners. “We need real democracy,” one of them read. “Rebellions are built on hope,” said another.

A woman holds a sign reading “We need real democracy” at a student-led rally. (Photo: Pichayada Promchertchoo)

The demonstrators gathered to voice the three main demands and issue two conditions – “there must be no coup d’etat” and “there must be no national unity government”.

“And lastly, the one aspiration which Free People hopes to be realised in Thailand is to truly have a ‘democratic form of government with the monarchy truly under the constitution’,” Free Youth said in a statement.

The Sunday protest ended peacefully. Before the demonstrators dispersed, student leader Tattep ‘Ford’ Ruangprapaikitseree said onstage if there is no progress from the government by September regarding their demands for political reforms, they will escalate their action and convene again at Democracy Monument.

Source: CNA/ec

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