BANGKOK — The monsoonal showers did not stop them. Nor did the specter of 8,550 police officers, whose armed presence evoked violently crushed protest movements in Thailand’s past.
Thousands of protesters gathered in Bangkok on Saturday and Sunday, calling for change: change to Thailand’s military-dominated government, change to the army-drafted constitution and, most explosively, change to the exalted status of the monarchy.
“We have to conquer our fear because if we don’t come out to fight then our future will not improve,” said Rewat Chusub, a 41-year-old tailor sitting under a red umbrella with the gilded Grand Palace as a backdrop.
Even as rain occasionally poured down, muffling the sound system, a procession of speakers addressed a big tent’s worth of issues in presentations that stretched through the night: the military’s monopoly on power, L.G.B.T.Q. discrimination, social welfare, women’s rights and the economic impact of the coronavirus.
The most sensitive subject, the role of the monarchy, was brought up late on Saturday night, with speakers describing a climate of apprehension surrounding discussion of the royal family.
“We were ruled by fear,” said Arnon Nampa, a human-rights lawyer who was charged with sedition last month.