Bangkok: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Thailand needs to bring “illegal protests” under control on Monday as he opened a special parliamentary session to discuss months of pro-democracy rallies.
The former head of the military, Prayut, who launched the coup in 2014, has faced pressure from thousands of protesters who demanded his resignation in recent weeks.
The student-led rally called for Prayut to resign, rewrite military regulations, and end the government’s harassment of political opponents.
“Though the people have the freedom to protest based on the constitution, authorities need to control the illegal protests,” said Prayut, who recalled parliament from recess last week.
“We do not want to see clashes or riots in the country,” he said, accusing some protesters of “inappropriate actions”.
Although Prayut acknowledged the protesters’ request in his opening speech, the two-day parliament meeting did not include it on the agenda.
But what happened this month was that protesters flashed three-finger salute in Queen Sadida’s car team-a symbol of their movement).
This severe challenge is unprecedented in Thailand, where the royal family is protected by strict anti-defamation laws, and criticism of this is taboo.
“The protesters say it was not in the plan for the Queen to pass that way, but the government says she can go anywhere,” said Tankhun Jittitsara, one of the secretaries of House Speaker Chuan Leekpai.
“No one knows the truth so we’ll talk about that.”
After that incident, the prime minister took emergency measures to ban gatherings of more than four people, and the authorities arrested dozens of activists.
The three militants were also prosecuted under the rarely used law prohibiting “violence against the queen”, which carries the highest sentence.
A week later, when they failed to stop thousands of “guerrilla” protests in Bangkok, Prayut withdrew the emergency measures.
Some protesters called for royal reforms, including the repeal of the Royal Defamation Law, a clear statement of the financial situation of the palace, and calling on King Maha Vajiralongkorn to maintain his political stance.
In response to these unprecedented challenges, groups supporting the royal family emerged and held rallies to express their love for the king.
On Monday, dozens of supporters wearing yellow shirts (royal colors) gathered outside the parliament to tell members of parliament not to reform the monarchy.
“We do not want the monarchy topic to be discussed in parliament,” said Suwit Thongprasert, a prominent royalist activist.
“We are ready to protect the monarchy.”
A student group has called for anti-government protesters to march Monday afternoon to the German embassy — in apparent defiance to the king, who has spent long stints of time in Germany.