A protest on Sunday (14 November) against the Constitutional Court’s ruling that calls for monarchy reform constitute an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State,” was met with police blockades and forced to relocate.
Police blockade at Kok Wua Intersection
The protest was called by an activist network under the name People Against Absolute Monarchy, comprising several activist groups: the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration (UFTD), Thalufah, the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG), Ratsadorn Army, the Coalition of Salaya for Democracy, SUPPORTER THAILAND, We Volunteer, and the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution (CCPC).
Initially, the protest was scheduled to begin at the Democracy Monument at 15.00 before marching to Sanam Luang. However, police were deployed to block the routes to the Democracy Monument. Checkpoints were set up to search pedestrians, while concerns were raised about the weapons carried by uniformed police officers carrying shields and firearms stationed in the area. It was reported on 31 October 2021 that, according to the deputy police spokesperson, police headquarters had assigned officers carrying live firearms to deal with protests instead of crowd control units.
At around 13.40, the activist groups who had called the protest announced on their social media profiles that the protest would be moved to the Pathumwan intersection. A number of protesters then marched from the Democracy Monument to Pathumwan, while a crowd began forming at the courtyard in front of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).
A banner saying "We don't want an absolute monarchy" is seen hanging form the Pathumwan skywalk while protesters burned effigies of the 9 Constitutional Court judges.
By 15.00, traffic through the Pathumwan Intersection was blocked. Banners saying “We don’t want an absolute monarchy,” "We are the representatives of the future, and we'll never surrender,” and "They said I want to overthrow the government, but I am only asking for reform" were hung from the skywalk above the Pathumwan intersection along with effigies of the 9 Constitutional Court judges.
At 16.20, the protesters burned the judges’ effigies in the middle of the intersection. An announcement was then made that there would now be a march to the German Embassy. The protesters lined up in front of the Siam Discovery shopping mall and began marching towards the Chaloem Phao intersection, which was blocked by crowd control police and water cannon trucks. Protesters pushed through the barrier and turned onto Henri Dunant Road.
A protester was shot in the chest near the Institute of Forensic Medicine on Henri Dunant Road.
As the march moved through the Chaloem Phao Intersection, it was reported that a protester was shot in the chest while standing near the Institute of Forensic Medicine on Henri Dunant Road. The protester was reported to be around 20 years old and was taken to Chulalongkorn Hospital.
It is unclear who shot the protester and which type of bullet had been fied. However, according to a member of the We Volunteer protest guard group, gunfire was seen coming from inside the police headquarters, and a protester retrieved a casing of what seems to be a 12 gauge shotgun bullet.
A bullet casing found at the scene of the shooting
Meanwhile, former Pheu Thai MP Dr Tossaporn Serirak said that he saw a crowd control officer raising his gun, after which there were several loud bangs and the protesters dropped to the ground. Hearing a shout that someone has been shot, he went to the scene and found that 2 protesters were shot. He said that the protester who was shot in the chest could not breathe as the bullet had penetrated his lung, and that both were taken to the Chulalongkorn Hospital and are in stable condition.
iLaw reported that a total of 3 people were shot at close range, and at least 2 were injured. One person was shot in the chest and another in the shoulder. 10 minutes later, the protest guards went to negotiate with the police and regroup in front of the Institute of Forensic Medicine. The protesters then continued with their march to the German Embassy without further interruption from the police, while an announcement was made through speakers that a representative of the Embassy was already waiting for them.
Protesters arriving at the German Embassy
The protesters arrived at the German Embassy at around 18.10. A large number of police officers in normal khaki uniforms were lined up in front of the Embassy, while the Superintendent of Thungmahamek Police Station announced that the protesters must leave as their march violated the Emergency Decree.
Three representatives of the organisers then went into the Embassy to submit their open letter. After they re-emerged, they said that they were told by the Embassy representative that their letter would be passed onto the Ambassador, who will also be informed of the injuries to the protesters. The representative also told them that the Embassy is concerned about the protest situation of the and wished them a safe return home.
The activists also asked that the Embassy contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the Constitutional Court’s ruling, which was delivered on the same day as the review of Thailand’s human rights records during the Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva.
Activist Nawat Liangwattana then read out a statement saying that the increased power of the monarchy is moving Thailand away from a democratic regime and towards an absolute monarchy, while royalists are trying to rewrite history so that the monarch has the power to rule the country and the people become only those who live in it.
The statement said that it is therefore unavoidable that the monarchy’s expansion of power must be stopped to bring about democracy. It also insisted that they are not calling for an abolition of the regime but are fighting for a regime in which everyone is equal. The protest then concluded at around 18.50.
A banner saying "They said I want to overthrow the government, but I am only asking for reform" was hung from the Pathumwan Skywalk.
The incident followed a Constitutional Court ruling last Wednesday (10 Nov) that speeches made by protest leaders Anon Nampa, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, and Panupong Jadnok, as well as subsequent calls for monarchy reform, were an intentional abuse of constitutional rights and liberties in an attempt to overthrow the “democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State.”
The ruling sparked protests from activists and members of the public. Immediately after it was read, reams of paper bearing the messages “Reform the judiciary,” “Reform is not rebellion,” and “Abolishing Section 112 is the first step to monarchy reform” were scattered on the steps of the court building. Activists from the Thalufah group also burned a model of the Democracy Monument to show their opposition to the ruling.
Protesters speak out against Constitutional Court’s ruling
Several participants in the protest said that they found the Constitutional Court’s ruling questionable and concerning, and that the call for monarchy reform is not the same as trying to overthrow the regime.
K. (pseudonym) comes from Europe and has been living in Thailand for the past 15 years. He said that he found the Court’s ruling questionable, as the 10 demands to reform the monarchy are nowhere near to asking for an abolition of the monarchy.
"It just asked the monarchy to be fair, under the constitution, and become less burden of the people," K. said.
K. agreed with the demands for a new constitution and new government, raising questions about the junta-appointed senators and abnormalities in the results of the last general election.
"They make sense. Where I come from, you don't have to demand them," he said.
K said it is a good thing that tourists will once again be allowed to enter Thailand, as it would boost the fragile economy. However, he wants the tourists to note that this government is not legitimate.
He also urges them to come and see the demonstration to let the oppressive government know that they are under watchful eyes.
Meanwhile, Chung, from Malaysia, said that people should support democratization, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly. He said that the current royal defamation law is oppressive to these freedoms and caused many Thai dissidents to become refugees. He agrees that this law should be abolished to allow people to freely express their opinion without fear of legal repercussions, and so that political refugees can return home.
Chung urged incoming tourists to pay attention to the political and human rights situation in Thailand, and to at least hear the demands of the people.
Dan (pseudonym), 47, said that he has been attending every protest he could, and said that calling for monarchy reform is not an attempt to overthrow the regime but demanding back democracy as it should be.
He is concerned that the Constitutional Court's ruling might led to more severe sentences being used against protesters, and that calling for democracy will be interpreted as overthrowing the regime.
Nevertheless, he said that, if no one speaks out, it would mean that they accept the ruling, and that the situation could become worse and more difficult to change in the future.
"Some people say that they can take it, but do we really need to wait until we can't take it anymore? Whatever is not right, we should call it out," he said.
Protesters marching by Lumpini Park
Na (Pseudonym), 24, said that they felt that the Constitutional Court's ruling was wrong, and that they already knew that calling for reform is not the same as abolition.
It does not make sense, Na said, that reform would be the same as trying to overthrow the regime, and said that the Court's ruling made them question whether Thailand has never been a democracy.
"Saying that power has belonged to the monarch since the Sukhothai era, does it mean that you admit that we have never been a democracy. Are we an absolute monarchy? I felt that that's not it," Na said.
Na said that the 10-point demand for monarchy reform made by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, as well as the demands for the repeal of the royal defamation law made on 31 October, would reduce the role of the monarchy in politics, and would make the monarchy more respected.
Personally, Na said that the uncompromising image of the monarchy right now reinforces the idea of those who do not want the monarchy to exist.
"For me, the monarchy must not descend into meddling in politics, and if it turns out that the monarchy compromises and stays under the constitution, our country will have a monarchy that lasts longer. Right now it's like the monarchy is shortening its own time, and people are losing faith in it," Na said.
Meanwhile, Nan (pseudonym), 27, said that the Court's ruling cemented their idea, and many other people's idea, that if they want to make the country better, they may have to reduce their demands to one, but Nan still thinks that the monarchy is still a spiritual anchor for some people, so if the monarchy stays under the constitution, adjusts to the modern world, and allows scrutiny, the monarchy will be able to last.
Both Na and Nan said they are not worried about protesting after the ruling, as they want to fight for their own future and for the country to be better.
"It’s not that I want to follow the leaders, but we have a core that wants to make the country better. I refuse to live under this regime any longer," Na said.
"I feel that living in this country, I can't see the light and my own future in this country. At least being out here is not as scary as not seeing myself in this country at all," Nan said.