Royalists rally to counter surging protests

Royalists taking part in a rally to show support for the Thai royal establishment in Su-ngai Kolok District in the southern province of Narathiwat.

A FEW dozen royalists held a rally in Bangkok in the face of protests against the government and the monarchy that have drawn tens of thousands of people to the streets in defiance of an official ban.Protest groups also urged supporters to demonstrate for a seventh day by gathering yesterday.

The royalists said they had no problem with protesters calling for the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – a former military ruler – but they should not touch on King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

“I beg you, do what you will but do not touch the monarchy, ” one of the royalists, Sirimongkol Ruampan, 24, said.

“I don’t believe in violence. I beg again, don’t bring the monarchy into politics.”

Royalists, most of whom wore yellow, the king’s colour, said their gathering was not political and thus not subject to the ban on gatherings of more than five people imposed by the government last week.

Police spokesman Yingyos Thepjumnong told reporters that all groups would be treated the same.

“We are ready for big surprises every day, ” he said.

Pro-royalist groups took to social media using a hashtag that translates as #WeLoveTheMonarchy to proclaim their loyalty, but it was hijacked by supporters of the protests posting anti-royalist messages.

The protests have become the biggest challenge to Thailand’s establishment in years and have drawn the most open opposition to the monarchy in decades despite lese majeste laws setting jail terms of up to 15 years for insulting the monarchy.

When protests began in July, they originally demanded a new constitution and Prayut’s departure, accusing him of keeping hold of power last year by engineering an election that he says was fair.

The demands for changes to reduce the monarchy’s powers came later.

Meanwhile, Prayut said yesterday in an address to the nation that he was preparing to lift emergency measures imposed last week to stop protests in Bangkok and that disputes should be settled in parliament. — Reuters

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