Protesters returned to the Ratchaprasong intersection on Wednesday night (24 March) to call for reform and release of detained activists despite police violence at recent protests.
Protesters gather at the Ratchaprasong intersection. The banner on the stage says "Monarchy Reform."
The protest, which was organised by the student activist group United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), began at 17.00 on Wednesday (24 March), a day before several protest leaders, including Benja Apan and Patsaravalee Thanakitvibulphol, are due to report to the public prosecutor to hear whether a case will be filed against them for their involvement in the protest in front of the German Embassy on 26 October 2020, which causes concerns that they will be detained pending trial.
Benja said before the protest that the people keep coming back to the streets despite the continuous police crackdowns. The people wanted to say that the country belongs to them, who have rights and liberties to assemble constitutionally. She said that they are not seeking violence, and that the people want to create a safe space for assembly, and called on the police to ensure the people’s safety.
Benja said that UFTD still underlined the previous 3 demands made by the pro-democracy movement: resignation of the PM, constitutional amendment and monarchy reform. They are also calling for the release of detained activists.
“[I’m] very concerned, concerned every day that our friends are in there [prison]. We don’t know what will happen to our friends. And Penguin (Parit Chiwarak) is on a fast and unhealthy. We don’t want anything to happen to our friend,” said Benja
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic in self-exile, made a phone call to the protest, saying the earlier moratorium on the use of Section 112 did not mean royal defamation offences were abandoned. The Computer Crimes Act was used instead during the moratorium from around the end of 2017.
The protests in the past year breached the wall surrounding discussion of the monarchy. This is very important because what has been said could not be taken back. The return of Section 112 is very fearsome and the U.S. has had to express its concerns over human rights and freedom of expression in Thailand.
Pavin said he personally wants Section 112 to be abolished. The monarchy must open for criticism as the number of people in royal service has expanded and assets have been transferred into the King in person under the Crown Property Bureau. The students’ demands were just as they are what makes the monarchy constitutional.
Patsaravalee spoke on stage during the protest, calling for monarchy reform. She said that, as a citizen, she would like to tell the King that he should conduct himself in a manner that befits the head of the state, and that the people, who are his last good friends, are now telling His Majesty that expansion of power will endanger the institution of the monarchy.
The absolute monarchy that is being built is an act of reversing the clock, said Patsaravalee. The absolute monarchy can be made in this reign, but it also can fall in the next reign, and we all know how fearsome the fall is.
Patsaravalee staged 3 demands to develop the institution of monarchy: having a single, inseparable armed force, ending intervention in any political groups by the monarchy, and quickly returning public assets which have been transferred to the King’s personal ownership.
Nat and friends lie down on the road inside chalk lines on which the number “112” was written.
Meanwhile, Nat and several other protesters were seen lying down on the road inside a chalk line on which the number “112” was written. The message “No 112 zone” was written at their feet. Nat said that the group wanted to show that the authorities are trying to keep the people in line, but staying inside the frame for too long is stifling, that thinking outside the box is not wrong, and that the activists’ detention is unfair.
Ploy, another protester, wrote “draft constitution” in chalk on the street. She said that for her, it is not enough to repeal the royal defamation law, or Section 112, because other legislation still exists which infringes on the people’s freedom, and there are still loopholes which can be used for people to seek benefit, so the entire legislative system must be changed.
She said that the people should be able to participate in the process of drafting the constitution, such as through a referendum, because legislation would affect the entire country, so the people should have the right to choose the law that are issued.
She said that Section 112 is the legislation she would most like to change currently, because she sees the law as problematic, as anyone can file charges under the law and the definitions are unclear.
Ploy would like to tell people who are still unsure about joining the movement, or people who still don’t see the problem in the society, that now is the time, as there are now people who are detained and whose lives are in danger.
“If you see injustice happen, even though you do not agree with the demands, you see that life right now, the economy is bad, there is unreasonable violence, I would like you to join us,” Ploy said.
The protest concluded at 21.04.