Tensions rise in Thailand ahead of fresh pro-democracy protest

Student protesters gather at an anti-government rally at Srinakhrinwirot University in Bangkok on August 13, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 16 August 2020

Tensions rise in Thailand ahead of fresh pro-democracy protest

  • Thailand has seen near-daily demonstrations for the past month by student-led groups
  • A rally last week — attended by some 4,000 demonstrators — also called for the abolition of a law protecting Thailand’s unassailable monarchy

BANGKOK: Protesters were set to rally in Bangkok Sunday against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement.
Thailand has seen near-daily demonstrations for the past month by student-led groups denouncing Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha — a former military chief who led the 2014 coup — and his pro-establishment administration.
Prominent student leader Parit Chiwarak, bailed a day after his arrest Friday night, vowed to attend Sunday’s rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.
“We will not disappoint you,” he told a crowd of supporters outside the police station after he was released.
Organizers expect thousands to participate. Hundreds of police personnel were seen at the venue before the scheduled start of the protest.
The protesters, partly inspired by the Hong Kong democracy movement, claim to be leaderless, and have relied mostly on social media campaigns to draw support across the country.
The hashtag “Give a deadline to dictatorship” and “Tag your friends to protest” started trending early Sunday on Twitter in Thailand.
The protesters are demanding an overhaul of the government and a rewrite of the 2017 military-scripted constitution, which demonstrators believe skewed last year’s poll in the favor of Prayut’s military-aligned party.
A rally last week — attended by some 4,000 demonstrators — also called for the abolition of a law protecting Thailand’s unassailable monarchy, and for a frank discussion about the royal institution’s role in Thailand.
Super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn sits at the apex of Thai power, flanked by the military and the kingdom’s billionaire business elite.
The draconian “112” law can see those convicted sentenced to up to 15 years in jail for each charge.

The growing boldness of the pro-democracy movement has angered the pro-royalist camp.
On Sunday, some 50 royalist protesters carrying portraits of the king gathered at the Democracy Monument — the same venue where the anti-government rally will take place later in the day.
“Long live the king,” shouted the royalists, dressed in yellow shirts — the king’s colors.
The day before student leader Parit’s arrest, Prayut said the protesters’ demands were “unacceptable” for the country’s majority, calling the pro-democracy movement “risky.”
He struck a more conciliatory tone in a televised speech later in the day, appealing for unity and saying the “future belongs to the young.”
Thailand has long seen a cycle of violent protests and coups, with the arch-royalist army staging more than a dozen putsches since the end of absolutism in 1932.
The growing discontent also comes as the kingdom goes through one of its worst economic periods since 1997 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Millions have been left jobless, and the crisis has exposed the inequalities in the Thai economy, which is perceived to benefit the elite, pro-military establishment.


China's Xi congratulates Biden on US election win

Updated 25 November 2020

China's Xi congratulates Biden on US election win

  • Sino-US relations have deteriorated to their worst in decades during incumbent US President's Donald Trump's four years in office
  • China's foreign ministry congratulated Biden on Nov. 13, nearly a week after many US allies had

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday congratulated Joe Biden on winning the Nov. 3 US presidential election, voicing hope the two countries could promote a healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Sino-US relations have deteriorated to their worst in decades during incumbent US President's Donald Trump's four years in office, with disputes simmering over issues from trade and technology to Hong Kong and the coronavirus.
In his congratulatory message to Biden, Xi said healthy ties between the world's two biggest economies were not only in the fundamental interests of their two peoples but also expected by the international community, Xinhua reported.
China's foreign ministry congratulated Biden on Nov. 13, nearly a week after many US allies had, holding out as Trump, who is still challenging the election results, refused to concede defeat.
In 2016, Xi sent congratulations to Trump on Nov. 9, a day after that year's election.
Also on Wednesday, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan congratulated Biden's running mate, Kamala Harris, on being elected as the next US vice president, Xinhua said, without providing further details.