Bangkok has seen its biggest rally in years, as almost 20,000 gathered outside the Grand Palace to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the limiting of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s powers.
Saturday’s action is the largest since the day Prayuth came to power during a military coup six years ago, which also saw thousands on the streets.
People in Thailand have been taking to the streets since mid-July, calling for the sacking of the government, a new election and constitutional changes.
But the current protests are also targeting the king, something which has always been taboo in the country.
The student-led demonstrators are pushing for a law banning criticism of the monarch to be scrapped, a reduction of spending by the royal family, and limitations on the king’s powers to control finances and military units.
The march on Saturday kicked off at the campus of Thammasat University – a traditional opposition hotbed – with people making their way to the Royal Field outside the Grand Palace.
Police said around 18,000 showed up to the demonstrations, although the organizers claim there were about 50,000 people in attendance. Either way, there were still enough present to make this the country’s largest protest since 2014.
“I hope those in power will see the importance of the people,” student leader Panupong Jadnok said from the stage, Reuters reported.
“We are fighting to put the monarchy in the right place, not to abolish it,” Jadnok clarified, as the crowd chanted: “Down with feudalism, long live the people.”
The protesters said they intended to stay outside the Grand Palace overnight and head out to Government House on Sunday morning.
“People can protest, but they should do that peacefully and within the law,” a government spokesman said. Prayuth has previously made it clear that reform of the monarchy is out of question.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn himself was not in Thailand during the protests, as he has mostly stayed in Europe after ascending to the throne in 2016.
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