Thai Pro-Democracy Protesters Ask Germany to Investigate King

BenarNews staff
Bangkok
2020-10-26
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201026-TH-protest-monarchy-1000.jpg Thai protest leader Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon (standing on platform) speaks to pro-democracy demonstrators after meeting with the German ambassador in Bangkok, Oct. 26, 2020.
BenarNews

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters marched to the German embassy in Bangkok on Monday to ask for an investigation into whether Thailand’s monarch has been conducting his kingdom’s affairs from Bavaria, as the Thai parliament opened a two-day special session to debate their demands.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X) has spent much of his time in the southern German state after he succeeded his late father on the throne four years ago, according to reports. Since mid-July, massive student-led protests in Thailand have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, the former army chief who led a military coup in 2014, as well as reforms and constitutional amendments to curb the monarchy’s power.

Late Monday afternoon, pro-democracy protesters gathered at Bangkok’s Sam Yan Intersection, from where they walked 4.1 km (2.5 miles) to the German embassy. There, they presented a letter to Ambassador Georg Schmidt.

The “open letter from the citizens of Thailand” asked the German government to investigate their concerns about Vajiralongkorn.

Among the demands listed in their letter, the protesters said “we request the German government to conduct an investigation and disclose King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s entry and departure records, in order to determine whether His Majesty has exercised the sovereignty on German soil.”

After handing the letter to Berlin’s envoy, Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, one of three protester leaders who met Schmidt, said the ambassador told them that “he sincerely listened to our voices.”

“We highly hope that Germany would give the answers to the Thai citizens,” she told the crowd of demonstrators.

Earlier in the day, a group of royalists who called themselves the “Thai Citizens,” gathered at the German embassy to submit their own letter regarding the bilateral relationship.

“Thai people are concerned that certain groups of protesters are dragging Germany into conflict with Thailand to benefit their course of political struggle,” the letter said.

The German parliament previously addressed this issue when Foreign Minister Heiko Maas answered a question about Vajiralongkorn’s role in Thai politics.

“We have made it clear that politics concerning Thailand should not be conducted from German soil. If there are guests in our country that conduct their state business from our soil we would always want to act to counteract that,” Maas said, according to Reuters news service on Oct. 8.

On the eve of Monday’s demonstrations in front of the German diplomatic mission here, the embassy sent a note verbale to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs to draw its attention to the planned pro-democracy protest.

“The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany recognizes the rights of peaceful assembly of the citizens of the Kingdom of Thailand, including in proximity to the embassy,” a copy of the note said.

“As in previous instances, the embassy is ready to receive messages addressed to the federal government conveyed in a peaceful manner,” it went on to say.

Monday’s letter presentation by the young activists occurred four days after Prayuth, on Oct. 22, lifted an emergency decree for Bangkok that limited political demonstrations to four people.

“Currently, the severe situation which resulted in the emergency decree has subsided and violence has ended, therefore government officials and state agencies can enforce regular laws,” the announcement in the Royal Gazette said on Thursday.

Prayuth issued the decree on Oct. 15, one day after thousands of yellow shirt pro-monarchy demonstrators lined the streets of a pro-democracy rally that started at Democracy Monument and moved over to Government House, where the prime minister and other government officials have offices.

In an unexpected confrontation, a group of protesters briefly stranded a limousine carrying Queen Suthida and her stepson, gesturing at them with a three-fingered salute, while pro-royalists who gathered in the same area chanted “long live the Queen,” according to a video clip broadcast on Nation TV.

While the pro-democracy group began their protests on July 18, this was the first with a counter-protester presence.

On Oct. 16, riot police fired water cannons mixed with a chemical dye that can irritate the skin at pro-democracy protesters who had gathered at the Siam Square business district. Police also arrested Ekachai Hongkangwan and Bunkueanun Paothong, who were seen in a video of the incident with the queen’s car and were charged with harassing her, a charge that could carry a sentence of life in prison.

The yellow shirts held their own demonstration on Oct. 23, paying homage to the late King Chulalongkorn, the current king’s great-grandfather. Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida greeted the partisan crowd at the Royal Plaza in front of his Dusit palace.

“Excellent, very brave, thank you,” the king was seen saying to Thitiwat Tanagaroon and patting his shoulder, according to a video clip that Thitiwat posted on his Facebook page. Thitiwat had held a portrait of the royal couple above his head while standing amid pro-democracy protesters at an earlier rally.

“I almost fainted, the majesties remembered me,” Thitiwat said in his post.

Special session

In opening the special two-day session of parliament on Monday, Prayuth told MPs that he could not afford to let a “chaotic change” happen in the country. The prime minister had dismissed the protesters’ demand that he resign from office over the weekend.

“I, in the name of the government and prime minister, realize that all things change with the world as time goes by, but there are tens of millions of Thais who don’t want to see the change in a chaotic manner,” Prayuth said. “All have their own beliefs and experiences. We need to find a ‘constructive balance’ of each of their personal desires and those of others.”

Sen. Paiboon Nitiwan spoke out about the pro-democracy demonstrators’ confrontation with the queen.

“Their demand for monarchal reform is to belittle the monarchy in an effort to establish a republic instead,” he told the parliament.

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