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Asia Minute: Thailand Rocked by Growing Political Protests

AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe
Pro-democracy activities gestures during a protest at Democracy Monument in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Aug, 16, 2020.

Political demonstrations are continuing in Thailand. Over the weekend, police estimated more than 10,000 people rallied against the government, and protestors are increasing the pressure.

The last time Bangkok went through political protests on this scale, a military junta overthrew the democratically elected government. That was in 2014, and the military leader who led that coup is now prime minister.

Prayut Chan-o-cha won following an election last year — a contest that critics say gave him an unfair head start. His selection was a result of the vote of the 500-member parliament, half of whom were appointed by the military junta.

Another significant event since that coup — the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign lasted 70 years and who was widely respected by many in the country. The new king lives mostly in Germany, has been married four times and it’s probably safe to say he does not command the same degree of respect as his father did.

But criticizing the king is a crime in Thailand — one of the laws protestors want to change.

They also want the current government to step down, as well as new elections, and a new constitution. 

There’s also growing anger with a society that remains split. At one end is a wealthy elite, at the other end is great poverty — currently made worse by an economy that remains closed to international tourism.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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