Thai court acquits 5 who were accused of blocking the queen's motorcade during 2020 protests
A court in Thailand has acquitted a student activist and four other people of impeding the motorcade of the country’s queen during pro-democracy demonstrations in 2020, an offense that could have seen them sentenced to 16 years in prison or even the death penalty.
Thailand's prime minister survives no-confidence vote
Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha smiles in parliament after a no-confidence vote against him was defeated in Bangkok, Thailand Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)BANGKOK – Thailand’s prime minister survived a no-confidence vote in parliament on Saturday amid allegations that his government mismanaged the economy, bungled the provision of COVID-19 vaccines, abused human rights and fostered corruption. It marked the second no-confidence test that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's government has faced since taking office in July 2019, following a contested election after Prayuth seized power in a 2014 coup as the army chief. In February last year, he and five Cabinet ministers easily defeated a no-confidence vote in the lower house. This is an evil action, making him no longer qualified to be prime minister,” he said.
Thai actress aiding protests charged with insulting monarchy
Several leaders of protest movement report to the police station to answer the charges of defaming the Thai monarchy, the most serious of many offenses of which they stand accused during recent pro-democracy rallies. Its use against Inthira appeared to be unprecedented since she was not directly tied to any comments about the monarchy. She has helped provide food, protective gear and other equipment for the protest rallies over several months that have attracted thousands of people. In recent weeks, protest leaders have put the focus on the monarchy, which is the most sensitive issue. Many Thais treat the monarchy with reverence, considering it an untouchable institution that is the heart and soul of the nation.
Thai king leads thousands to remember late father's birthday
Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn greets supporters as he walks to participate in a candle lighting ceremony to mark the anniversary of the birth of late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, at Sanam Luang ceremonial ground in Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. King Maha Vajiralongkorn, accompanied by Queen Suthida, waved as he arrived at Bangkok's Sanam Luang ceremonial ground. The king led the crowd in a candlelit tribute to his late father, whose giant image was at the center of the stage set up outside the ornate Grand Palace. Although King Bhumibhol Adulyadej died four years ago, his birthday remains on the national calendar as Fathers’ Day. In recent days, at least 12 protest leaders have been charged with royal defamation under the lese majeste laws.
Thai pro-democracy protesters rally outside army base
Around 800 protesters marched to the base of the 11th Infantry Regiment, which is closely associated with the country’s royal palace. The protesters believe that the army undermines democracy in Thailand, and that King Maha Vajiralongkorn wields too much power and influence in what is supposed to be a democratic constitutional monarchy. Protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak urged the crowd to rally outside the court on the day of the verdict. Last year, the 11th Infantry Regiment was shifted from the army’s chain of command and made part of the Royal Security Command, answerable directly to the king. Because it is based in Bangkok, the 11th Infantry Regiment has been a key player in coups, or opposing them, according to the prevailing political climate.
Thailand's pro-democracy protesters warn of possible coup
Protesters flash LED lights from their mobile phones during a rally Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 in Bangkok, Thailand. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)BANGKOK – Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand, undeterred by arrest warrants and the possibility of violent attacks, held another rally on Friday, poking fun at their critics and warning of the possibility of a military coup. The potential for violence was illustrated after their last rally on Wednesday, when two men were reportedly shot and critically wounded. Although any criticism of the monarchy used to be taboo, speeches at the rallies — as well as signs and chants __ include caustic words about the king and the palace. That event was the trigger for a coup, and since then Thailand has had successful coups in 1977, 1991, 2006 and 2014.
Thai protesters push on despite charges of royal defamation
On Tuesday, police had issued summonses for 12 protest leaders to answer charges of lese majeste, defaming or insulting key members of the royal family. Most of the protest leaders are already facing multiple charges, ranging from blocking traffic to sedition. Many in the months-long student-led protest movement believe the monarchy holds too much power for a constitutional monarchy. The ducks became a symbol of resistance last week when human-size inflatable ducks were brought to a rally outside Parliament and satirically dubbed the protesters’ navy. A protest rally outside Parliament last week turned chaotic, as police fired water cannons and tear gas at the protesters.
Thai protesters rally again, promoting a diversity of causes
BANGKOK – Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand rallied again on Saturday, promoting a diversity of causes and taking an opportunity to display their rejection of the country’s power structure directly to the monarch. Some 20 groups called the rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument under the name “Mob Fest” as the latest in a series of protests calling for significant reforms in government. The protest movement, anticipating that the lawmakers will not take substantive action, has already called what it expects will be its biggest march so far for Nov. 21. A crowd of several thousand protesters at Democracy Monument on Saturday showed their sentiment when a royal motorcade with King Maha Vajiralongkorn passed by. However, the general atmosphere at the rally was festive as a variety of groups promoted their causes with petitions and speeches, and music entertained the crowd.
Thai protesters defy police water cannons to deliver letters
Police use water cannons to disperse pro-democracy protesters during a street march in Bangkok, Thailand Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)BANGKOK – Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand were confronted by riot police and sprayed by water cannons Sunday as they tried to approach Bangkok's Grand Palace to deliver letters about their political grievances addressed to the country's king. Sunday marked the second time water cannons were used against the protesters during several months of demonstrations. The melee was brief, and police later allowed the protesters to place four red mock mailboxes near the palace walls into which protesters could place their letters. The protesters believe Prayuth lacks legitimacy because he came to power after an election last year whose rules were set up under military rule.
Thai king and queen take to street to meet adoring royalists
King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida greet supporters in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Under increasing pressure from protesters demanding reforms to the monarchy, Thailand's king and queen met Sunday with thousands of adoring supporters in Bangkok, mixing with citizens in the street after attending a religious ceremony inside the Grand Palace. (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)BANGKOK – Under increasing pressure from protesters demanding reforms to the monarchy, Thailand’s king and queen met with thousands of adoring supporters in Bangkok, mixing with citizens in the street after attending a religious ceremony inside the Grand Palace. “We love them all the same,” the Thai king told the UK’s Channel 4. Asked if there was room to compromise with protesters, the king said, “Thailand is the land of compromise,” and quickly turned to walk away.
Thai student-protesters aim for ambitious political change
Now 21, he is among those at the front of Thailand's growing pro-democracy movement pushing for sweeping political reforms. Political protest is nothing new in Thailand, and its past 15 years have been defined by it. Among their calls were for greater oversight of royal budgets and an end to the practice of Thai monarchs endorsing military coups. Chonticha is aware history is not on the protesters' side, but she says in some ways they have already succeeded. “Our movement has changed the perception of Thais toward the monarchy and military,” she said.
Thai protesters shun Parliament, ask Germany to probe king
Pro-democracy demonstrators march to the German Embassy in central Bangkok, Thailand, Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. They believe the king wields an inordinate amount of power in what is nominally a democracy under a constitutional monarchy. It has also led royalists to stage counter-rallies and to denounce the protesters for raising the issue, increasing the risk of confrontation. Speaker of the House Chuan Leekpai cautioned at Monday's special Parliament session that it was not to discuss the role of the monarchy. The protesters consider the government's response insincere, noting the agenda for the non-voting session of Parliament does not include the protesters’ concerns but instead has thinly disguised criticism of the protests themselves.
Thai protesters rally ahead of parliamentary debate
Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand gathered again Sunday in Bangkok, seeking to keep up pressure on the government a day ahead of a special session of Parliament called to try to ease political tensions. The rally was called Saturday night after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the protesters’ deadline to step down. Prayuth’s government last week called the special parliamentary session to seek to defuse weeks of almost daily protests. Protesters’ criticism of the royal institution has irked conservative Thais because the monarchy traditionally has been treated as sacrosanct. On Wednesday, a small royalist rally in Bangkok broke into violence when a few attendees attacked anti-government student activists.
Thai protesters' deadline passes, but PM says he won't quit
After the 10 p.m. deadline passed, protesters called another rally for central Bangkok on Sunday, at a major intersection in the capital's main shopping district where they have gathered before. Prayuth told supporters Saturday evening as he left a Buddhist temple where a prayer session was held for national peace and prosperity that he would not quit. “The government is sincere in solving the problem and committed to following the law in doing so,” he told reporters. The protesters, however, said they would stick to their deadline for Prayuth to meet their demands that he resign and that their arrested comrades be released from jail. In addition to calling for Prayuth's resignation, the protesters’ core demands include a more democratic constitution and reforms to the monarchy.
Transit shutdowns fail to deter Thai pro-democracy protests
Pro-democracy protesters march during a protest in Udom Suk, suburbs of Bangkok, Thailand, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The authorities in Bangkok shut down mass transit systems and set up roadblocks Saturday as Thailands capital faced a fourth straight day of determined anti-government protests. All stations of Bangkok’s elevated Skytrain transit system were closed Saturday afternoon to try to keep protesters from gathering. Once that was announced, money was pooled by participants so they could take taxis to get around the transit shutdown. It was the first time in three months of sporadic protests that the authorities have employed such forceful tactics against the student-led movement.
Thai police crack down on protesters, PM refuses to resign
Journalists who were hit by the water said it caused a stinging sensation and was dyed blue, to mark protesters for possible later arrest. Police said several protesters and police were injured during the pushing and shoving and seven people were arrested. Conservative royalist Thais accuse the protest movement of seeking to end the monarchy, an allegation its leaders deny. Wednesday's incident with the royal motorcade was stunned many Thais. It normal in Thailand for those waiting for a royal motorcade to sit on the ground or prostrate themselves.
Thailand declares emergency after unprecedented protest
Pro-democracy protesters flash three-fingered salute during a protest as they occupied a main road at the central business district in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. Such actions are unprecedented in Thailand, where those waiting for a royal motorcade regularly sit on the ground or prostrate themselves. The protest movement was launched in March by university students, but quickly put on hold as Thailand was gripped by the coronavirus pandemic. Conservative royalist Thais accuse the protest movement of seeking to end the monarchy, an allegation its leaders deny. Nevertheless, analysts say the incident with the royal motorcade may harden positions.
Thai democracy protesters march despite police, rival groups
Thousands of pro-democracy protesters march out from the Democracy Monument to the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Despite a massive security presence and harassment from counter-demonstrators, thousands of protesters marched from Bangkok’s Democracy Monument toward Government House, the offices of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. Before leaving Democracy Monument, several small clashes broke out between protesters and their opponents, who traded punches and threw plastic bottles as police tried to keep them apart. That demand has caused a huge controversy because the royal institution has long been considered sacrosanct and a pillar of Thai identity. Efforts by several royalist groups to counter the previous rallies fell flat, but the turnout of counter-demonstrators was much larger Wednesday.