By CHALIDA EKVITTHAYAVECHNUKUL, Associated Press
BANGKOK (AP) – Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand rallied again on Saturday, promoting various causes and taking the opportunity to demonstrate their disapproval of the country’s power structure directly to the emperor.
Some 20 groups addressed the rally at the bank’s democracy memorial known as “Mob Fest”, the latest in a series of protests calling for significant reforms in government.
The main demands of the main student-led protest movement are that Prime Minister Pruthu Chan-Osha step down, amend the constitution to make it more democratic and make the monarchy more accountable.
The demand on the monarchy is the most controversial because the royal institution is traditionally regarded as the heart and soul of the nation, and with the utmost respect. It is protected by a law that defames the emperor to a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
The military, a major influence in Thai politics, declares the defense of the monarchy as one of its main duties, and many ordinary citizens also regard it with devotion.
However, the protest movement has given priority to the issue of reform of the monarchy as it believes that the institution holds too much power and this change is the key to the establishment of true democracy. They are therefore posing unprecedented challenges even at the risk of violent trauma from radical politicians.
On Saturday, a crowd of several thousands of protesters showed their sentiment at the Democracy Memorial, when King Maha passed through a royal motorcycle with Wazirlongkorn. He patted his back, put his hands up in the air and sang the national anthem to demonstrate his three-part protest. A small contingent of royalists on the street shouted “Bring the king alive”.
The Raja and Rani Suthida presided over the opening of a new mass transit station in the capital. In recent weeks the royal couple kept busy with public events with their followers.
The protesters later wrapped a large white cloth around the democracy memorial, on which they wrote messages to the government with their demands and their wishes for the future. The effect of the coverings was particularly dramatic when lights flashed on the monument after dark.
Police initially tried to stop their action, triggering a small skirmish that left a police officer with a leg injury, which led him to the hospital.
However, the general atmosphere at the rally was festive as various groups, including secondary school students and feminists, promoted their cause.
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