Aug 18, 2020 - World

Thailand's protesters dare to criticize their absentee king

Something's brewing in Bangkok. Photo: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty

Upwards of 20,000 people took part Sunday in Thailand's biggest protests in years, demanding the dissolution of parliament and a new constitution.

Why it matters: The protesters are targeting not only Thailand's prime minister, who took power in a 2014 coup, but the monarchy, which has historically been shielded from criticism.

“What makes these protests groundbreaking is the public articulation of the ways in which the king is unaccountable — fiscally, legally, politically and morally," says Tamara Loos, a professor at Cornell University.

  • "King Vajiralongkorn resides in Germany for most of the year and has been criticized for his indifference to the impact of the pandemic and worsening economic crisis back home."
  • “The public nature of their demands is double-edged: protesters risk arrest or even death when they critique authorities publicly. At the same time, the very public and viral (social media) nature of these protests means that the world is watching the Thai state’s response."

The youthful protesters are also demanding the resignation of Prayuth Chan-ocha, who transitioned from junta leader to prime minister after an irregularity-marred election last year.

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