Pro-democracy protesters stage rally in Thailand

Pro-democracy protesters will rally today, following a clash with police last Saturday. Demonstrators are demanding the release of four protest

Thai Protests

Photo: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Pro-democracy protesters will rally today, following a clash with police last Saturday. Demonstrators are demanding the release of four protest leaders detained under Section 112 in November 2020 and a repeal of the same law.

Under Section 112, anyone charged with insulting and threatening the monarchy can face up to 15 years in prison. However, repeal is not the primary goal of the protests. Tensions were triggered by the ban of the Future Forward Party, Thai’s second-largest opposition party, and later by the COVID-19 economic slump. Critics claimed the ban would consolidate the power of the junta-backed government. The protesters demand a new constitution, dissolution of parliament and an end to government intimidation. Rewriting the constitution would substantially reduce the monarchy’s power.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha will not accept the protesters’ demands. The protests may not receive the support of Thai’s urban upper and middle classes, which largely support the military. Royalism remains strong too. The PM may be counting on the vaccine rollout and economic recovery to gain public confidence and let the protests disperse gradually. However, if the protests continue and expand, expect him to consider small concessions, including lessening Section 112’s severity.

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