Thousands of protesters demand monarchy reform, release of jailed leaders

Thousands of protesters demand monarchy reform, release of jailed leaders

Protesters occupy Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok during a rally pressing for the release of their detained leaders. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Protesters occupy Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok during a rally pressing for the release of their detained leaders. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Thousands of demonstrators occupied Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok on Wednesday demanding reform of the monarchy and the release of detained leaders.

Earlier, the  United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration posted a Facebook message urging a peaceful rally, days after one of the most violent demonstrations since they began last year.

More than 30 civilians and police were injured in a clash at a protest near the palace on Saturday, after police used water cannon, teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the rally.

The protesters have also demanded curbs to the power of His Majesty the King and the abolition of a strict lese majeste law that mandates up to 15 years in prison for insulting the monarchy.

Protesters on Wednesday peacefully occupied Ratchaprasong, one of Bangkok's busiest street intersections, and cheered as some leaders demanded monarchy reforms and called for their "friends" to be freed from jail.

"Ploy pheuan rao" (free our friends)," they shouted.

"This is a long and tiring fight. We must fight together along this path to democracy," Attapon Buapat, who was indicted for lese majeste earlier this month but later released on bail, told the crowd.

"Change has begun. They could only slow it down but never stop it."

Criminal cases have been mounting against protest leaders. The most prominent ones have already been jailed pending trial for insulting the royalty.

More activists, including Mr Attapon again, could be indicted on Thursday when they were due to meet with prosecutors over their roles in the protests.

Prosecutors have called a total of 13 pro-democracy protesters, including Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon, to appear at the South Bangkok Criminal Court in a case based on a rally outside the German embassy on Oct 26.

The leaders could face lese majeste and sedition charges.

The indictment planned for Thursday may be delayed if the compilation of evidence against the protesters has not been completed.

Thailand's youth protest movement emerged last year and has posed the biggest challenge to the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the former army chief who seized power in 2014 from an elected government.

The Royal Palace has not commented directly on the protests. The government has said criticism of the king is unlawful and inappropriate.

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