Thailand girds for renewed protests as it marks anniversary of beloved king's death

Organizers plan to dig in outside Government House, demand resignation of general-turned-prime minister

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Pro-democracy protesters wave flag during protest at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on Sept. 19, 2020.

Pro-democracy protesters wave flag during protest at Sanam Luang in Bangkok on Sept. 19, 2020. (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As Thailand marks the fourth anniversary of the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, protesters are gearing up for a major rally in Bangkok that will kick off Wednesday (Oct. 14) and is slated to last a week or more, testing the patience of the Kingdom's military-dominated government.

The protesters are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who led the coup that overthrew the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra six years ago, as well as "three demands": an end to government intimidation of critics, the dissolution of the House of Representatives, and a new constitution.

The youth-dominated movement rocked Thai society with its unprecedented push to reform the monarchy — a near-sacred institution in a country where lèse majesté, or insulting the monarch, is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence.

Demonstrators will start off on Wednesday at Democracy Monument, which is surrounded by a traffic circle at the city's center. Co-organizer Armon Nampa, wrote on Facebook that they will then proceed to march to the Government House, which contains the offices of the general-turned-prime minister, and encircle the grounds with tents.

The Government House was the site of clashes during the political crisis of 2008 and again saw mass demonstrations in the lead-up to the 2014 coup.

As of Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 13), organizers of the rally were already setting up, and a small crowd of demonstrators had already gathered. There are concerns, however, that the police are looking for ways to obstruct their plans.

Activist Pakorn Areekul on Monday (Oct. 12) posted on Facebook that companies contracted to set up portable toilets at the rally had pulled out after alleged police pressure, Khaosod English reported.

The motorcade of King Maha Vajiralongkorn will pass through the area that afternoon, and police allegedly warned toilet operators they would face fines if their commodes blocked the route, despite the fact that they were not scheduled to be set up until hours after the King had passed.

Some 15,000 police will reportedly be deployed to ensure "safety" at the rally. Bangkok Post cited a "police source" as saying that protesters had not sought permission for the demonstration and that the Royal Thai Police had been told to refrain from using force.