Thailand’s history reverberates across Royal Square today in songs, chants and cheers as tens of thousands once again gathered to demand an end to military rule.
What appeared to be the largest rally to date calling for the government to step down, drew protesters from across the country in a two-day demonstration. And while the past has seen similar scenes of resistance to indelible tyranny in Thailand, the outspoken defiance of the monarchy was unprecedented.
With protesters expected to camp overnight after a series of speeches from an erected stand, organizers were raising a “surprise” at 9 p.m. Whatever this speech by a prominent dissident in exile or something more provocative, an even bigger surprise will come on Sunday when organizers reveal their plans. It is now rumored that what amounted to a march on the seat of government power was a march to the palace itself, although no plans have been announced yet.
Husband and wife identifying themselves only as Kitty, 60; Lujitaba, 40; They said they are organized into pro-democracy rallies. Kitty said he was in Tamasat on October 6, 1976, when his generation of student protesters were shot, hanged from trees and dozens killed by government-backed right-wing paramilitaries and security forces. He was 19 years old.
“I came today to support the generation of children,” he said. I disagree with this dictatorial government and always. The constitution should come from the people, there should be checks on government officials and transparency. Inequality occurs under this current system.”
The gathering began in earnest this afternoon when the University of Thammasat, a powerful historical site of past events, backtracked on the protesters’ ban and opened its doors. However, by late afternoon, growing crowds flocked back outside to fill Sanam Luang, where earlier uprisings had crystallized.
The protest was organized by the United Front of Petitions and Demonstration, led by the protest faction that went beyond demanding the government to step down to demand 10 royal reforms.
Sanam Luang, a royal field where Thai kings are burned in a grand ceremony, has been given a new name today by anti-establishment protesters: Sanam Ratsadon, or “People’s Field”.
Jitaba said she and her husband have agreed on the 10 property requests, saying they are not seeking to end it.
Quoting the constitutional monarchies of Spain, Denmark and Britain, she said, “None of these demands indicates that they want the monarchy to be overthrown, but only that they want the institution to be as subject to the law as anyone else and appropriate for today’s society.”
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“I think this will protect the foundation more than anything else, so there’s nothing wrong with these suggestions,” she added.
In front of the tamasat gate, dressed in assorted garb adorned with icons from the rural north including buffalo yoke, sticky rice baskets and aprons, performed by a man who only asked to be identified as Petchprakaisang.
The 59-year-old said he got off all the way from Lowe County with a group this morning. He said he was a reformer before the previous coup in 2006 that toppled the Thaksin Shinawatra government and blamed it for the loss of the house he had just finished paying for and its land. This led him to join the anti-government Redshirt movement in 2008.
“My clothes represent all Thai people. We are chained from speaking to our mind and limited from thinking a certain way,” he said, pointing to the rope ties and coconut shell on his head. He said that the giant “yoke” on their shoulders represented the burden the Thais had to bear.
Indeed, while the student-led movement opened a new page of nearly two decades of red-yellow rivalry, supporters of the Redshirt movement had a larger presence at Saturday’s rally, raising flags for the runaway ex-prime minister they had supported for a long time and other heroes. .
A huge red flag was raised to commemorate Major General Khatia Swasdepol, also known as Si Dang, a rogue general who led an armed camp during the 2010 street demonstrations and shot a sniper in the head at their climax.
At the end of Sanam Luang, between the crowd and the Grand Palace, nearly 100 police officers lined up alongside a barricade of large vehicles.
Groups and vendors have run stalls along the field, a mixture of grass and concrete, and campaign for various causes, from freeing craft beer and legalizing same-sex marriage to increasing access to legal abortion.
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