Thailand’s student protesters took demands for sweeping royal reforms directly to the seat of monarchical power on Sunday, delivering a list of 10 demands and planting a plaque declaring that “the nation belongs to the people, not the monarchy”.

The move came a day after tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered at Thammasat University and Sanam Luang, a royal ground alongside Bangkok’s Grand Palace that is normally closed to the public, in the largest protest in recent years.

The weekend gathering attested to a movement growing in both size and the radicalism of its demands, which have moved beyond calls for the government to resign to a push for King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s powers and wealth be curbed.

On Sunday, a few thousand protesters moved on foot and trucks towards the palace, chanting “Down with feudalism, long live the people!”

Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, a student leader who electrified Thai politics last month by reading out the 10 demands for royal reform, demanded to see a representative of the king’s privy council and hand-delivered a letter containing the requests to a representative of Bangkok police.

“We have won,” declared Anon Nampa, another student leader, after Ms Panusaya, shielded by a scrum of news reporters, turned round and retreated.

Hundreds of police were deployed around the palace, and authorities erected barriers and barbed wire around Government House and other public buildings. However, the protest, like others seen in Thailand since July, remained peaceful. 

The Thai king, who lives in Germany, was not in Bangkok. 

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“We will not stop until the dark power is gone,” said Parit “Penguin” Chirawak, another protest leader, in apparent reference both to the king and Voldemort, the villain in the Harry Potter books who figured in an anti-monarchy protest he led last month.

Protest leaders called for a general strike on October 14 and a boycott of Siam Commercial Bank, one of Thailand’s largest. Mr Parit called the bank, in which the king has a 23.4 per cent stake, a “money pot of feudalism”. 

“Close your SCB account; use other banks,” he said. “Get all your money out and burn your bank book. It’s your legal right to do this.” 

He also urged other Thais to raise the protest movement’s three-finger salute whenever they heard the national anthem, which is played publicly twice a day in Thailand, or the royal anthem, which is played before film screenings in cinemas. 

“Our bravery will spread to those who believe in us, but haven’t yet come out.” 

Ms Panusaya, Mr Anon and Mr Parit are part of a faction of relatively radical protesters associated with Thammasat. They have urged royal reforms and are among more than a dozen people charged with sedition and other crimes.

Thailand’s king and family have until recently been protected from criticism by the strict lèse majesté law, which carries a maximum prison term of 15 years. 

But the students have not stopped violating longstanding taboos despite the legal threats. In a speech on Saturday, Mr Anon questioned the king’s spending, including on petrol for the royal family’s fleet of planes and asked: “Why do you live abroad?” 

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Follow John Reed on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites


Via Financial Times