Pro-Democracy Protests Reignite In Thailand As Government Fails COVID19 Response
Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators defied a ban on public gatherings in Thailand, as the country suffered 20,000 infections in a day. The government's failure to contain the virus and respond appropriately has drawn pro-democracy protests again after months of hiatus due to the COVID-19 virus. Using new emergency decrees and lawsuits, Thailand's government has cracked down on dissent. As the country's infection rate and death toll continue to hit records, they have targeted particularly those who criticize the government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lawyers and rights groups said the government could block online reports that may "instigate fear" even if they are true. They insist the moves are intended only to target those spreading false and misleading information.
The slow start to the COVID19 vaccination program in Thailand, combined with economic hardship and business closures resulting from severe government mismanagement, has sparked nationwide anger. Demonstrators are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s government and an end to the Monarchy, which uses Thailand's national wealth as a personal bank account raking in $1 Billion per year in public funds. The blatant plundering by King Maha Vajiralongkorn who spends the majority of his time outside of the country, particularly in Germany, living in luxury and surrounded by narcotics and women has triggered calls for democracy. The King's impunity is upheld in conservative Thai culture, and any criticism of the monarch who is also viewed as semi-divine is taboo as well as illegal. At least 103 people from Thailand's youth-led pro-democracy protests are charged with insulting or "threatening" King Maha Vajiralongkorn or his immediate family, a crime punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment.
#Thailand gives $1 billion to its monarchy per year, despite the fact that King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the world's richest monarch, has $40 billion in assets and lives full time in Germany.— Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) November 2, 2020
Criticizing the monarchy can lead to a 15-year prison sentence. #WhatsHappeningInThailand pic.twitter.com/Fcg5Wyqedr
The king has traditionally been portrayed as above reproach and can legally do anything he wants, as laws do not apply to him or his family. Hundreds more face other criminal charges that include sedition. Police traffic booths were set on fire and some demonstrators threw firecrackers and fireworks at the monarchy's security forces, who had earlier attacked a crowd of mostly peaceful protestors with water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas provoking a reaction from the crowds.
At least six police were "injured" in the clashes including one officer shot with a homemade gun, many more protestors were injured by police brutality. The Thai Civil Court ruled that police must exercise caution when controlling crowds, but refused a motion from human rights lawyers seeking a ban on rubber bullets.
Student democracy activist Benja Apan told the crowd, “The authoritarian Prayut Chan-O-Cha government continues to seek, allocate, and distribute benefits for the ruling class, allowing people to get sick and die on their own fate,” A youth-led democracy movement that kicked off in Thailand last year drew hundreds of thousands of people to rallies demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut and reform or abolition of the monarchy. Prominent protest leader and human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, recently arrested, told a crowd in Bangkok, "This year will be the last year we discuss monarchy reform, ... After this, what will happen will happen. We can’t stop the sun from rising, we can’t control what people believe in. We’re here to fight to build a brighter future. This year we will fight with strategies, we will fight with goals.”