What’s Behind Thailand’s Protests?

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A student-led pro-democracy protest campaign is gaining momentum across Thailand, with some demonstrators pushing for the reform of the kingdom’s unassailable monarchy.

Authorities have so far carried out 11 arrests on multiple grounds, including sedition and breach of coronavirus laws, before releasing them on bail.

Here’s what we learned so far:

What Do The Protesters Want?

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Protesters are protesting against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha ‘s administration.

The former military leader led the coup in 2014 and held the kingdom under military rule for five years.

Within the junta, a new constitution was drawn up before last year’s elections.

Prayut was elected to head civilian government-win observers say the terms of the current charter were tilted.

Protesters say that the whole process was a stitch-up and they are calling for a dissolution of the parliament, a rewriting of the constitution, and an end to the harassment they face.

They still have a list of 10 requests for the monarchy, including a defamation rule that protects the wealthy royal family from scrutiny.

The rule is one of the toughest in the world, with prison sentences of up to 15 years per crime.

Why Now?

Discontent has been simmering since the leaders of the opposition party, popular among young people, were banned from politics in February.

Most protesters claim that the drive toward the Future Forward Group was politically motivated.

The Pandemic Lockout, which liberated Thailand’s economy, revealed the chasms between the billionaire class and the poor.

Then, in June, influential activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who had been living in self-exile in neighboring Cambodia, died.

Thailand’s social media activists lit up Twitter with their requests for answers.

The online campaign spilled offline in mid-July and a series of protests began around the country, with up to 20,000 taking part in the biggest rally so far last weekend.

We’ve Seen Thai Protests Before. What’s Different?

Real, Thailand has seen a cycle of violent street protests and military coups over the decades.

Yet in the past, opposition campaigns had a significant financial and political effect on them.

Student protesters today say that there is no leader-a strategy partly inspired by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.

It is also the first to dare to take up the tabuist theme of the country’s monarchy.

Under the constitution, the royals-including the super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn-are expected to remain out of politics, but they have tremendous power.

Since the King took the throne in 2016, he has made unprecedented reforms, gaining full charge of the fortunes of the palace and moving two military divisions under his authority.

By his side are the arch-royalistic military and wealthy billionaire clans.

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