Protesters gather in Bangkok after PM snubs call to resign

Protesters have gathered in Bangkok, seeking to keep up pressure on the government one day ahead of a special session of Parliament called to try to ease political tensions.

The rally took place on Sunday at the busy Rajprasong intersection, in the heart of the capital’s shopping district, an area that usually draws large weekend crowds.

The rallies were called on Saturday night after Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ignored the protesters’ deadline to step down.

The protesters’ core demands include a more democratic constitution and reforms to the monarchy.

Public criticism of the monarchy is unprecedented in a country where the royal institution has been considered sacrosanct.

The protesters charge that Prayuth, who led a coup in 2014 as the army chief, was returned to power unfairly in last year’s general election because laws had been changed to favour a pro-military party.

Prayuth’s government called parliament into a session – expected to start Monday and last two days – in an effort to defuse weeks of almost daily protests.

“The only way to a lasting solution … is to discuss and resolve these differences through the parliamentary process,” he said last week.

Prayuth also lifted a state of emergency on Thursday that he had imposed a week earlier that made the protest rallies illegal.

The protesters were not impressed by his efforts to appease them, declaring them insincere.

Several have noted on social media that the points of discussion submitted by the government for debate were not intended to deal with protesters’ concerns but were thinly disguised criticisms of the protests themselves.

“There are thousands of protesters on the streets. The mood is more relaxed than we have seen in recent weeks. There are police here but they are standing back and directing traffic where they can. Authorities haven’t closed down the transport system, which they have done previously,” Cheng said.

Protest organisers have called for a march on Monday afternoon that will take them to the German Embassy in central Bangkok, far from the parliament complex which is on the outskirts of the city.

The march is apparently to draw attention to the protesters’ contention that King Maha Vajiralongkorn spends too much of his time in Germany.

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