“We are going to open a new era in our battles because there is no longer any compromise possible” launched one of the young student leaders Parit “Penguin” Chivarak during a new demonstration in the heart of Bangkok on Wednesday (November 18th).
Not without a certain humor because at the head of the procession danced a clown, a monk and an inflatable duck, in barely veiled reference to the army, Buddhism and the king, the three pillars of the kingdom. That precisely these young students call for reform when the parliament was to vote on the same day to decide which draft constitutional amendments it accepts to consider.
No proposal in parliament concerns a possible reform of the monarchy
Several proposals were submitted to Parliament by part of the opposition and an NGO. They aim in particular to reform the Senate, considered too close to the army, the Electoral Commission and the Constitutional Court.
Another major proposal debated would also provide that the Prime Minister must come from the ranks of Parliament and no longer from the army as is the case today. But the 250 senators, entirely chosen by the ex-junta, should not easily agree to cut back on their prerogatives and a possible constitutional change will take a lot of time anyway. In addition, most of the proposals submitted to parliamentarians exclude any reform of the monarchy.
“Parliamentary procedure is just window dressing”
“All this parliamentary procedure is just window dressing and it has no chance of succeeding”, assures Charuwan Lowira-Lulin, a Thai anthropologist who follows very closely this youth movement launched four months ago. “ The youth have been leading the way for weeks, and the regime, disconnected from the reality of the country, has no idea how to respond to its demands other than by violence, which will justify a new coup d’état by the army ” she adds.
Peaceful for months, the protests, which now continue daily, are becoming more and more violent, as are the confrontations with the riot police, who no longer hesitate to use water cannons and fire live ammunition.
On Tuesday November 17, the police used it in front of the parliament in a very muscular repression. As night fell, a clash also broke out between pro-democracy protesters and ultra-royalist “yellow shirts”, the two groups throwing bottles, stones and waste at each other. A total of 55 people were injured, including six from live ammunition, according to Bangkok’s Erawan Emergency Medical Center.
“It is a decadent and depraved king who rules us”
These are the most violent incidents since the start of the protest, which calls for the resignation of the Prime Minister, a reform of the monarchy and a new Constitution. “The situation keeps getting worse, notes Worravut Thueakchaiyaphum, 32, political refugee in France for two years, just when King Rama X is in Thailand ”.
Seemingly afraid of returning to Germany, where he lives, because of the virus and confinement, the king discovers his country, and the royal palace has organized several official outings for him in the streets of the city. “But this whole show rings false, quips a professor at the prestigious Chulalongkorn University who wants to remain anonymous, he takes selfies, but no king has ever done that, he wants to make more people than people but nobody believes in it ”.
In fact, many wonder who is really running the country. Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-O-Cha calls for calm, nothing more, and the entire government remains silent. With an unstable king, whom many consider “mentally ill” – something everyone dreads to say publicly – the country appears to be sailing on sight.
“It is a decadent and depraved king who rules us”, dares to say, in private, a Thai interlocutor specializing in the history of the Thai monarchy. But the mighty army obeyed him. And she will protect him to preserve his privileges.