King's Guard 'renamed' as protesters lay siege to base

King's Guard 'renamed' as protesters lay siege to base

Anti-government protesters rally outside the 11th Infantry Regiment on Phahon Yothin Road on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Anti-government protesters rally outside the 11th Infantry Regiment on Phahon Yothin Road on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Anti-government protesters on Sunday rallied outside 11th Infantry Regiment in Bang Khen district of Bangkok, one of the camps for the King's Guard, in a symbolic show of support for their call to reform the monarchy.

Although they initially moved buses and tried to cut through barbed wire blocking the camp's entrance, they stopped after the rally leaders announced they did not wish to go inside to make their point.

On Saturday, the anti-government protesters had announced plans to gather outside the 1st Infantry Regiment on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road but yesterday abruptly switched the venue to the 11th Infantry Regiment on Phahon Yothin Road instead.

A number of police officers were sent to the new location to handle traffic around the area, which slowed as protesters began gathering during the day.

Thousands of protesters gathered underneath Wat Phra Sri Mahathat BTS Station in the afternoon, and at 6pm many gave three-finger protest salutes as the national anthem was played.

Afterwards, a number turned their faces to Wat Phra Sri Maha That temple, lit incense sticks and prayed for the spirits of Khana Ratsadorn members in a former guise who lost their lives in political rallies in the past to help them.

The remains of many key members of Khana Ratsadorn, the group of young, Western-educated elites who in 1932 staged a coup that replaced the country's absolute monarchy system with a constitutional monarchy, are kept in the temple.

As the protesters converged on the 11th Infantry Regiment about 500 metres away, security authorities made an announcement urging them to stop trying to break through the makeshift bus and barbed-wire barricade.

Representatives of the group then tried to assure the police that all they were doing was attempting to clear more space for their gathering.

According to protest co-leader Parit "Penguin" Chiwarak, the event was switched to the 11th Infantry Regiment because they were blocked from gathering outside the 1st Infantry Regiment by cargo containers and barbed wire.

The main purpose of Sunday's rally was to voice opposition to the fact that the monarchy has his own military force, said Mr Parit who is among 12 protest leaders being summoned to face charges for allegedly violating Section 112 of the Criminal Code, the lese majeste law.

"The government is already responsible for ensuring security for the monarchy," he said.

"More importantly, both the 1st and 11th Infantry Regiments have on several occasions been involved in violent dispersals at previous political gatherings and military coups."

At 7.09pm, Mr Parit announced the military unit would now have a new function as protesters installed a large banner at a pedestrian crossing bridge in front of the camp renaming it the home of "the People's Guards".

Another key protester Arnon Nampa announced that the time and place of the group's next rally will be revealed in coming days.

National police deputy spokesman Pol Col Kissana Phathanacharoen said the event had contravened the law of public gatherings and charges could therefore follow.

In another development, Archeewa Pongpong Sathaban, an ultra-royalist group fighting to protect the monarchy, gathered in the Wong Wian Yai area, where the statue of King Taksin the Great is situated, to demonstrate their loyalty to the monarchy.

Thakun Nuankaeo, the spokesman for the group, said the main purpose was to communicate to the public, especially those young people in the anti-government camp, a more "accurate" message about Thailand's monarchy.

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