THAILAND. Bangkok. “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall rise,” a phrase over 15,000 pro-democracy demonstrators chanted throughout an anti-government rally at Democracy Monument on 16 Aug led by university students.
Following a month of over 170 anti-government rallies, people gathered to demand that the government must stop harassing the people who exercise their rights and liberty, rewrite the constitution for the actual public interest, and dissolve the parliament. All that must happen under two principles: no further military coup, and no national unity government.
Demonstrators also emphasized their one aspiration: a true constitutional monarchy system.
Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree, one of the protest leaders, told reporters that this rally was a sign from the people that they are suffering from the government’s incompetence. He said the government and the parliament must fulfill their demands if they do not want more protests.
People came out despite the obstructions from the authorities in many forms including arresting the protest leaders. While demonstrators were concerned over the safety of the people, they also believe the authorities would not do anything at this point.
One of the demonstrators who is a father, Santi Prasoetsak, brought his child with him because he said he wanted his child to learn about civic engagement.
“I’m not worried about anything, I don’t think it’s the point that the state would decide to use violence,” Prasoetsak said. “The more the people come out, the less the state would dare to harm the people.”
However, protest leaders said they anticipated the harassment prior to the event and said it reinforced the need to be in the fight.
“When we are in the undemocratic society that isn’t supportive for our expression, it’s something we have to come out and demand,” said Juthatip Sirikhan, another protest leader.
Sirabhob Attohi, a protest moderator, said, “You asked me if I’m scared [of the harassment]? Yes, I am. But actually it’s the state that should be scared of us.”
Demonstrators said if the demands are not met by the end of the month, they will come out again.
The rally consisted of speeches from speakers, skits, dancing, music recitals, comedy shows, and concerts.
After the rally, protest leaders with arrest warrants marched to a police station to turn themselves in. They challenged the police to prosecute them with charges.
Police refused to arrest them.
Reforming the monarchy
An aspiration the movement emphasized was to put the monarchy under the constitutional like other constitutional monarchy countries. Prior to this rally, students at Thammasat University already outlined 10 demands for the monarchy.
Those 10 demands were not accepted on stage at the rally, as ThaiPBS reported, but a parade that emphasized those demands appeared at the rally.
Ruangprapaikitseree said a true constitutional monarchy is still an aspiration because it is something the people cannot achieve yet as the country is still under an undemocratic constitution.
A 67-year-old demonstrator, Surasak Pattanapirom, came out to support the youth but he said he does not want them to mention the monarchy too much but rather focus on the initial three demands first. He advised that they would gain more supports from the people that way.
However, Winyu Wongsurawat, an internet personality and a demonstrator, said he does not think that the 10 demands about the monarchy were not an insult to the institution as they are not illegal.