Thailand protesters openly criticise monarchy of King Maha

Speakers at a Thai anti-government protest have demanded reforms to the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, calling for its powers to be curbed in unusually frank public comments.

Defaming the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in prison under Thailand’s “lese majeste” laws. Police did not stop the six speakers, but said any suspected offences would be investigated.

Many of the 200 protesters gathered on Monday night were dressed like the fictional wizard Harry Potter and other characters in what they said was a reference to vanquishing injustices under the military-backed government.

Lawyer Anon Nampa, 34, accused the palace of taking on increasing powers that undermined democracy and of inaction in the face of attacks on opponents of the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military government leader.

After the king took the throne in 2016, the palace required revisions to a new constitution that gave him greater emergency powers. He has since taken personal control over some army units and palace assets worth tens of billions of dollars.

Meanwhile, some Thai activists complain of harassment by authorities, saying that at least nine opposition figures living abroad have disappeared. Two were later found dead. Reuters has not independently confirmed what happened to these opposition figures.

“Talking about this is not an act to topple the monarchy, but to allow the monarchy to exist in Thai society in the right way and legitimately under a democratic and a constitutional monarchy,” Anon told the group of approximately 200 at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.

Reform on ‘lese majeste’ law

Two student groups then read out demands that started with: “Cancelling and reforming the laws that expand the power of the monarch and that could impinge on democracy where the king is the head of state.”

The Royal Palace did not answer phone calls on Monday seeking comment on the criticism.

Deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said it was up to police whether to act against the protesters.

“The government wants the young protesters to observe the laws so that they can continue to exercise their rights to make their demands and the country can stay peaceful,” she said.

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