BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday student protesters had gone too far after some issued a 10-point call for reform of the monarchy, which is considered sacred in the country’s conservative culture.
About 3,000-4,000 protesters chanted “Long live democracy” at Thammasat University on the outskirts of Bangkok on Monday night. Speeches were delivered calling for the resignation of Prayuth, who first took power in a 2014 coup, and an end to military domination of politics.
But protesters from the Thammasat University Pro-Democracy Group also issued a 10-point call for monarchy reform, becoming at least the third student protest group to break a decades-long taboo on questioning its role and powers.
Thailand has strict “lese-majeste” laws against insulting or defaming the king, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Palace officials declined to comment on the student protests or on any criticism of the monarchy.
Prayuth, a former chief of the armed forces, told reporters he had watched the protests and was very concerned.
“There are a lot of people in trouble waiting for their problems to get fixed, not just the young people. So is doing all of this appropriate?”
“It really went too far,” Prayuth said, without directly commenting on the demands on for royal reform.
In June, Prayuth warned protesters against involving the monarchy in their protests but said King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who took the throne after the death of his father in 2016, had asked him not to arrest anyone under the “lese majeste” laws.
The monarchy remains a sensitive subject in Thai society and Monday’s protest prompted a public statement by Thammasat University apologising for the event. It said that while the university was supportive of freedom of expression it did not condone “some references on the monarchy that impact people’s feelings”, and that legal action would be taken.
The students’ new demands included reversal of a 2019 order that transferred two army units to the king’s personal command, and a 2017 law that gave him full control of the crown’s extensive property holdings.
(Reporting by Jiraporn Kuhakan, Panarat Thepgumpanat and Panu Wongcha-um; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Robert Birsel and Mark Heinrich)