Thai Protesters Install 'People's Plaque', Call For Royal Reform


Thai protesters install 'People's Plaque', call for royal reform

Bangkok, Sept 20 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 20th Sep, 2020 ) :Thousands of protesters cheered as activists installed a new plaque Sunday declaring that Thailand "belongs to the people" -- the boldest show of defiance in a youth-led movement which has questioned the unassailable monarchy's role in the kingdom.

Thailand has seen near-daily protests for the past two months led by student activists calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former army chief who masterminded a 2014 coup.

Demonstrators spent Saturday rallying in Bangkok's historic Sanam Luang field next to the Grand Palace, where organisers took a stronger line on monarchical reform, calling for the royal family to stay out of the kingdom's politics.

Authorities said the demonstration drew 18,000, though AFP reporters on the ground estimated a 30,000-strong crowd at its peak -- making it the largest gathering the kingdom has seen since the 2014 coup.

On Sunday at dawn, student activists installed a commemorative "People's Plaque" on the paved area adjacent to Sanam Luang field.

"Down with feudalism, long live the people," shouted protest organiser Parit Chiwarak to the cheering crowd.

The new plaque states the date Sept 20, 2020, followed by the proclamation: "The people have expressed the intention that this country belongs to the people, and not the king.

" The movement is pushing frank questioning of the royal family's role in the kingdom into the public -- once a taboo topic due to Thailand's draconian royal defamation laws.

The newly installed medallion references the original brass one embedded for decades in the ground of Bangkok's Royal Plaza.

It commemorated the end of royal absolutism in 1932 after a revolution that transitioned the kingdom into a constitutional monarchy.

But it mysteriously disappeared in 2017 -- after King Maha Vajiralongkorn took power following the death of his father -- replaced with one bearing a reminder for Thais to remain loyal to the "nation, religion, king".

Activists say the missing plaque is emblematic of a wider whitewashing of Thai political history.

Palace officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Organisers had initially planned to march to Government House, but a last-minute change of plans saw protesters move to the Privy Council's office -- opposite the Grand Palace -- to submit a list of requests.

The highly influential board of royal advisors wields significant influence in Thailand.

Dozens of officers stood guard, alongside water cannon trucks in front of the palace.