With every week, the protests grow larger, bolder and more effective. A day after upwards of 10,000 young Thais rallied at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, yet more academics, celebrities and a broadening swathe of politicians offered their open support.
Government authorities and the royalist establishment so far have failed to silence the movement, which began with school students and has spread to include more of the public, both young and old.
Free People, the activist group that morphed out of student-led Free Youth, organized Sunday eight-hour protest which the Metropolitan Police Bureau said drew 12,500 people, although officers on the scene estimate at 20,000.
“You may write me down [as] history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may tread me [into] the very dirt, but still, like dust, I’ll rise,” said one poignant sign carried by a young woman wearing a baseball cap with the word “love” embroidered on it.
“Sick of your [expletive]. Stop [expletive] killing us,” said another sign carried by a young man.
The protesters called for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign so that “true” democracy can be restored with an elected civilian government that reflects Thai voters.
A protestor who identified herself only as Supansa also decried a lack of essential freedoms in her homeland.
“We want to live in a free country where we can say what we think and what we know. In Thailand, we can’t do this. We can’t mention who has been behind many of the country’s problems.”
The rallies, however, have seen challenges to age-old taboos, such as calling for reform of the country’s monarchy, something outlawed under the draconian lese majeste law. In response, authorities last week arrested several prominent protest leaders, including outspoken student leader Parit Chiwarak, and charged them with sedition and other crimes.
The authorities also forbade the young activists from organizing or participating in any further protests before releasing them on bail. But undaunted, Parit and other targeted activists attended the Aug. 16 protest to send a message that they won’t be intimidated or silenced.
On Monday, it was clear their message resonated.Government opposition filed a motion for amendments to Section 256 of the constitution, to pave the way for the establishment of a constitution-drafting assembly.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chuan Leekpai, said the issue will be included in the agenda of a meeting within 15 days. However, he said the Lower House has no authority to convene a joint legislative session to debate solutions to the country’s problems and the protests.
Senate President Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said that, considering the possibility that the activists demands will be met, all procedures must be taken in accordance with the law.
People have the power to amend the charter, he said. If certain sections are not essential, they can be amended. If it is important, a referendum will have to take place, Pornpetch added.
The Progressive Movement’s Secretary-General Piyabutr Saengkanokkul went ever further, saying constitutional amendments and the dissolution of parliament are the only actions that will help solve the current political crisis.
Piyabutr told a lecture that Article 279 of the constitution –which endorses the National Council for Peace and Order, the title of the military junta which overthrew the Yingluck Shinawatra government in 2014 – must be abolished and articles 269-272 related to the Senate’s power must be amended, along with Article 256 to enable a complete re-drafting of the constitution.
“Many, many young people are sick of this corrupt and repressive regime,” a university student who identified herself as Supansa told UCA News. “This government is illegitimate.”