Thai protesters challenge monarchy as huge rally escalates

Thousands of protesters have marched in Bangkok to hand to police a letter of demands, openly challenging the monarchy and calling for reforms to curb the powers of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Protest leaders declared the handing over of the demands a victory.

“Our greatest victory in the two days is showing that ordinary people like us can send a letter to royals,” Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, told the crowd on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, protesters cemented a plaque near the Grand Palace in the area known as Sanam Luang, or Royal Field.

It reads: “At this place the people have expressed their will: that this country belongs to the people and is not the property of the monarch as they have deceived us.”

Bangkok authorities would need to determine whether the plaque is illegal and if it is, it would need to be removed, the city’s deputy police chief Piya Tawichai said.

The mass student-led rally, the biggest demonstration in years, began on Saturday with calls for democratic reform, the removal of Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister and a former junta leader, and a new constitution and elections.

Protest leaders also called for a general strike on 14 October to show support for change.

Thousands camped overnight at Sanam Luang field near the royal palace.

The marchers were blocked by hundreds of unarmed police manning crowd control barriers and Anucha Burapachaisri, a government spokesperson said authorities would not use violence.

He added that it was for police to determine and prosecute any illegal speech.

Protesters have grown bolder during two months of demonstrations against Thailand’s palace and military-dominated establishment, breaking a longstanding taboo on criticising the monarchy, which is illegal under lese majeste laws.

The next protest is scheduled for Thursday.

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