In Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, tens of thousands took part in continuing pro-democracy protests following a government crackdown Friday, which saw riot police unleash water cannons containing a chemical irritant on crowds calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Protests against the prime minister began in March this year, following the dissolution of a popular pro-democracy party, but have dramatically increased in size this week, with crowds numbering in the tens of thousands.
The government responded to these growing protests with an emergency decree on Thursday, which banned groups of more than five people and gave police the authority to make areas of Bangkok off limits to protesters. Along with this new measure have come the arrests of protesters, including a human rights lawyer and several student activists.
The protesters have released several demands, chief among them that the prime minister resign. A former general, Prayuth seized power in a 2014 military coup. A new constitution was put in place by military leaders three years later that sets aside parliament seats for military officials — so many that protesters argue the prime minister will maintain power regardless of the outcome of elections.
As Panu Wongcha-um reported for Reuters, protesters made three demands in July: “the dissolution of parliament, an end to harassment of government critics, and amendments to the military-written constitution.”
Demonstrators are still working towards those goals, but increasingly, protesters are demanding changes to the country’s monarchy as well.
As Richard Bernstein has explained for Vox, citizens of Thailand have traditionally avoided statements that could be seen as critical of the royal family, which is currently led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, due to the country’s “lèse-majesté laws, which outlaw ‘defaming, insulting, or threatening’ of a member of
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