Thailand protesters take to street to mock fashion show
BANGKOK (AP) - Democracy protesters in Thailand returned to the capital's business district on Thursday and held something like a street fair to publicize their claims that the country's monarchy has too much power and influence.
Their rally on the city's Silom Road was billed as a counterpoint to a fashion show held on Thursday evening by Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana, a daughter of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The princess is a fashion designer and has several stores in shopping malls and mall in Bangkok where she sells her luxury goods.
A large crowd that gathered after work took over part of the street, looking at serious and satirical artwork and posters, and mostly listening to spontaneous speeches.
Sarcasm and satire have played an important role in the recent protests, as it did again on Thursday when a red carpet was rolled down the street to serve as a fashionable runway for men and women to vamp on in front of an amused crowd and could often make fun of the gestures and looks of the king.
The student-led protesters held rallies almost every day, drawing short-term crowds, sometimes in excess of 10,000.
They want Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to step down, the constitution to be amended to make it more democratic, and reforms to make the monarchy's activities more transparent and accountable.
Prayuth first became prime minister in a military government after staging a coup in 2014 as army commander, and stayed in office last year after a new constitution and other laws enacted during military rule to penalize existing political parties. Parliamentary elections had been held.
Prayuth has said he will not keep the job pressured, but his government has indicated that it is possible for parliament to consider changing the constitution.
The protest movement also accuses King Vajiralongkorn of exercising excessive power in a nominally democratic democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The palace controls fortunes estimated at at least $ 40 billion, making it the richest royal family in the world.
The monarchy has long been considered an inviolable institution, revered by a large segment of the population and protected by a law of majesty that imposes a prison sentence of three to 15 years for anyone found guilty, the monarch and his immediate family to have defamed.
The protest leaders' criticism of the royal institution, initially cautious but now increasingly open, has baffled many Thais, as the issue has not been publicly discussed for a long time.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered outside the German embassy to present the ambassador with a letter asking his government to investigate whether King Vajiralongkorn was engaged in political activities during his frequent visits to Germany.
Thai royalists have recently held counter-demonstrations, but so far they have lacked the numbers and enthusiasm of pro-democracy activists. Concerns have risen that violence may break out following a recent attack by a number of participants in a royalist rally in Bangkok on student protesters.
Chonticha “Lukkate” Changrew, a protest leader, said Thursday that it was time to ask the government how the peaceful rallies by students are protected by the state, “how to control and stop people who try to provoke violence apply against us. "
King Vajiralongkorn has made several unusual public appearances over the past week and has gone with Queen Suthida and other members of his family to greet the crowd of loyal monarchists who have gathered to see him. These events were captured on smartphone videos and widely shared on social media.
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