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Thai protesters demand royal reforms

February 13, 2021

Protesters returned to the streets of Bangkok against a law prohibiting insult to Thailand's king. Some reportedly threw homemade explosives as police tried to disperse the crowd.

Thai protesters jostled with police
Protesters jostled with police as they try to march forward during a rally in BangkokImage: Sakchai Lalit/AP Photo/picture alliance

Thai security forces on Saturday arrested at least seven people after protesters clashed with police in Bangkok, injuring about 20 officers, a police spokesman said.

Hundreds of demonstrators took part in the march against laws prohibiting insult to Thailand's king

The organizers of the rally called for the crowds to disperse as protesters moved from the Democracy Monument.

Those that remained clashed with police, according to reports, including some who threw paint and homemade explosives at officers.

Protesting the lese-majeste

The recent detention of four activists sparked Saturday's protests. 

Authorities remanded the four in custody on charges of insulting the monarchy during last year's anti-government protests.  

Those suspected of insulting the monarchy are subject to up to 15 years in prison under Thailand's lese-majeste law.

Protesters sitting on the ground as photos of the detained activists are hung on the wall in Bangkok.
The activists, who previously called for the Thai government's resignation, organized Saturday's rallyImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

Activists believe that the government has used the law for decades to crack down on political opposition.

Led by former military junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, the Thai government denies the protester's accusations. 

Since November, Thailand has charged more than 58 people with lese-majeste, according to rights group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, where the king has a special status as the protector of the Buddhist religion.

Led by students

Thailand's student-led pro-democracy movement began last year, calling for the government's resignation and reforms to the monarchy. 

Protesters have openly criticized King Maha Vajiralongkorn, breaking with longstanding taboos. 

Activists argue that the king has acquired too much power since he took the throne in 2016, following his father's death. 

The surge of COVID-19 cases in Thailand slowed down the student movement. 

The Royal Palace has not commented on the protests, but authorities consider criticism of the king unlawful. 

fb/mm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)