Category Archives: Southeast Asia – The Kingdom Of Thailand 🇹🇭

Thai’s premier call parliament again as protesters hit up pressure.

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The movement appeared to be gaining traction across the country with smaller protests taking place Sunday from Phuket in the south to Khon Kaen in the northeast.

Thailand’s embattled premier called Monday for a special session of parliament as protesters planned more rallies to demand his resignation, the release of jailed activists, and reforms to the monarchy.

Tens of thousands of mostly young protesters have taken to the streets in the past week in defiance of an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people.

Police said around 20,000 people protested across the capital Sunday, although activists and local media estimated much bigger crowds.

As they prepared to rally again Monday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said parliament — currently in recess — would be recalled to discuss how to reduce tensions.

“We support opening an extraordinary session to solve this conflict,” he told reporters, warning protesters not to break the law.

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“I request protesters rally peacefully. The government has already compromised to some degree,” he said.

The largely leaderless movement is calling for the resignation of Prayut — a former army chief and mastermind of a 2014 coup — as well as the re-writing of the military-drafted constitution they say rigged last year’s election in his favour.

Most controversially, protesters are also making unprecedented demands to reform the powerful and ultra-wealthy monarchy.

They want the abolition of a draconian defamation law that shields King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism, greater transparency of royal finances, and for the monarch to stay out of politics.

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‘Protect the monarchy’
It has gained momentum since July, but sharply escalated last week after a group of protesters surrounded a royal motorcade and flashed three-fingered “democracy salutes” — borrowed from the “Hunger Games” movies — at Queen Suthida.

Two activists now face charges under a rarely used law banning “violence against the queen” and face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

Confrontations escalated further on Friday when riot police used water cannon and other strong-arm tactics, provoking widespread outrage.

Prayut warned Monday the government needed to protect the monarchy.

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“This is the duty of all Thais,” he told reporters.

Apart from arrests by police, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society said it had flagged more than 325,000 messages on social media platforms that violated the Computer Crimes Act, which critics say is used to muzzle dissent.

Police also warned local media outlets that their coverage of the protests would be examined for possible illegal content.

By midday, #SaveFreePress was the latest hashtag trending on Thai Twitter, one of several platforms being used by tech-savvy protesters to coordinate their activity.

They have also copied many tactics employed by Hong Kong protesters during months of frequently violent clashes there last year, including using improvised protective clothing in case of confrontations with riot police.


#Newsworthy…

Top Story: Anti Gov’t Protesters in Thailand back on street.

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Anti-gov’t protesters renew calls for parliament’s dissolution, rewriting of constitution and protection of dissidents.

Pro-democracy protesters are gathering in Thailand’s capital, in what is expected to be the largest rally in weeks of anti-government demonstrations and the biggest since a military coup in 2014 that brought Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to power.

Thousands of protesters on Saturday forced their way onto the campus of Bangkok’s Thammasat University, an institution that has long symbolised democracy in the country’s shaky political history. Later, they made their way into the adjacent Sanam Luang field near the royal palace.

The rally is expected to draw tens of thousands of people, with protesters planning to stay out until Sunday. Police said they would deploy thousands of officers.

“Today, we will continue to push for our demands,” said Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak. “As citizens, we should be able to fight for our rights. You cannot stop us. We have now broken through these first gates and we will continue to break through until we have democracy,” added the student activist as he mobilised a large group of protesters on the outer limits of the university.

Moments earlier, tensions had risen as a scuffle broke out between an anti-government protester and a security guard.

Democratic reforms
The student-led, anti-government movement has been calling for three significant changes to Thailand’s power structure: the dissolution of parliament, the rewriting of the military-drafted constitution and an end to the intimidation of dissidents.

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Protesters believe that their votes in last year’s long-delayed general election have been disregarded after Prayuth, a former army general, stayed on as prime minister with the backing of an unelected Senate and smaller parties, despite the pro-military Palang Pracharat party finishing second.

Following the 2014 coup, Prayuth scrapped the country’s constitution and had the military write a new charter that increased the king’s powers and allowed the military to appoint the 250-member Senate that was to have a say in selecting the new prime minister.

Protesters have also been openly discussing Thailand’s powerful monarchy in public, with some calling for it to be reformed and have its political power reduced. This level of public criticism and debate is unprecedented in modern times, as the kingdom’s royal institution is protected by strict lese majeste laws that can carry prison sentences of up to 15 years.

The anti-government movement has been brewing since mid-July, but its origins began when Thailand’s top court in February moved to dissolve the popular Future Forward Party (FFP). Led by charismatic billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the FFP won the third-highest number of parliamentary seats in the March 2019 election and was seen as a threat to the political establishment.

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The coronavirus pandemic momentarily halted the movement in March but protests resumed as cases started to fall. And in June, the disappearance of Wanchalerm Satsakit, a well-known activist who was abducted in plain sight outside of his apartment in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, was the spark that pushed people to take to the streets.

The initially youth-led demonstrations have since grown consistently larger, drawing citizens from all age groups and walks of life amid rising discontent over Thailand’s widening economic inequality.

Mook, 21, a recent university graduate, said she was participating in the protest to fight for “a better future”.

“We’re unhappy with the government, it’s very simple,” she told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media. “Last year, when I was in university, it became obvious to us [other students] how difficult our future will be if we don’t ask for this [three demands],” she said.

“So today, I’m joining this activity because I think Thailand desperately needs democracy.”

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Police estimate up to 50,000 people could show up at Saturday’s protest, but student leaders believe there could be up to 100,000. Some are worried of an impending crackdown as Prayuth recently warned protesters to not “violate the palace”.

“I’m coming here to help the young people,” said Peeja Plahn, 53. “Many of them have not seen political rallies like this and they won’t know what to do if things get bad. We’re here to support their cause, but we’re also here because this government doesn’t work,” he added.

“Thailand needs to move on.”

At least 28 activists have been arrested on various charges, including sedition, since the protests began months ago.


#Newsworthy…

Thai King, Maha reinstates ex consort after 10 months of stripping her of all titles

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Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn has reinstated 35-year-old Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi as his royal consort on Aug 28, the Royal Palace announced in the Royal Gazette.

“Since Ms Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi is flawless, a Royal Command was given to Ms Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi to hold the noble title of Royal Noble Consort Sineenat Bilaskalayani, along with ranks in the Royal Office and the military, and receive royal decorations of all classes,” the palace said in a Royal Gazette dated Aug 29.

According to the announcement, it is to be regarded that the royal noble consort has never previously been stripped of her noble titles, military ranks or royal decorations.

The reinstatement took place after King Vajiralongkorn stripped her of all military ranks, decorations and royal titles in October last year for being “ungrateful” and behaving “in ways unbecoming of her title”.

Her downfall came less than three months after King Vajiralongkorn granted her the title of Chao Khun Phra or royal noble consort – the first such appointment in nearly a century.

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According to the Palace’s statement on Oct 21, 2019, Sineenat had shown her objection and exerted pressure against Queen Suthida’s installation. She wished to be installed as the queen instead.

“She is also not content with the title bestowed upon her, doing everything to rise to the level of the queen. She lacks the understanding of the good traditions of the royal court. She displays disobedience against the king and the queen,” the statement said then.

Sineenat was born in the northern province of Nan on Jan 26, 1985. She graduated from the Royal Thai Army Nursing College and trained as a pilot in Thailand and abroad.

She was first bestowed the title of royal noble consort on King Vajiralongkorn’s 67th birthday in July last year.

SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, CNA


#Newsworthy