Tens of thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators braved rain and heat to rally in Bangkok this weekend with speeches and events that broached subjects previously considered taboo for public discussion.
The demonstrators, comprised of students and older protesters, gathered at Thammasat University and Sanam Laung in Bangkok’s old town to call for the military-backed government to step down.
The protesters also used the opportunity to address the royal institution, something which had previously been punished by the application of lese-majeste laws which blocked the discussion of the monarch and his family.
The students however pushed ahead with speeches and signs that called for a reform of not just the lese majeste law but the relationship between Thailand’s conservative institution, the government, and the rights of ordinary citizens.
We estimate at least 50,000 people now are at Sanam Luang.— Thai Enquirer (@ThaiEnquirer) September 19, 2020
Speeches not slated to start until 830pm.
More people still coming in. #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฎร #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฏร #whatshappeninginthailand #ม็อบ19กันยา pic.twitter.com/o2ZJhwRjf2
The protests were mostly peaceful with no reports of violence despite heavy police presence.
According to the National Police Headquarters, over 7,000 police officers were deployed to maintain security. Protest organizers say they reached over 100,000 participants this past weekend while security officials told Thai Enquirer that over 50,000 people had gathered.
On Sunday morning, the protesters installed a commemorative plaque on the grounds of Sanam Luang to replace an earlier one that had been removed two years prior. The removed plaque was installed after the 1932 revolution that deposed of the absolute monarchy and replaced it with a constitutional monarch.
Sunday’s new plaque was to remind the country that the power still belongs with the people, student leaders said.
The plaque has now been installed and the student leaders are now giving speeches.— Thai Enquirer (@ThaiEnquirer) September 20, 2020
They’re calling for a true democracy in Thailand free from outside influence. #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฎร #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฏร #whatshappeninginthailand #ม็อบ19กันยา pic.twitter.com/dQdVTaC9CX
The students also marched Sunday morning to the Office of the Privy Council to hand in a list of reforms aimed at modernizing Thailand’s conservative institutions and allowing it to coexist with a 21st century government, a move unthinkable just a few years prior.
The road has been blocked but the protesters send in Rung with a letter.— Thai Enquirer (@ThaiEnquirer) September 20, 2020
It is received by a police commander.
What a photo!! #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฎร #19กันยาทวงอํานาจคืนราษฏร #whatshappeninginthailand #ม็อบ19กันยา pic.twitter.com/5DNEa119EK
The students say that unless the representatives from the government act upon the reforms they will continue to gather.
The next rally, the student-leaders say, will take place on September 24. Protesters will march on parliament to pressure the constitutional drafting committee.
They are also calling for a general strike on October 14 to put pressure on the Prayut Chan-ocha government to rewrite the current military-drafted constitution and call fresh elections.