Thailand Protesters Warn of Coup 11/28 08:34
BANGKOK (AP) -- Pro-democracy demonstrators in Thailand, undeterred by
arrest warrants and the possibility of violent attacks, held another rally on
Friday, poking fun at their critics and warning of the possibility of a
The potential for violence was illustrated after their last rally on
Wednesday, when two men were reportedly shot and critically wounded. Although
the incident remains murky and its connection to the rally unclear, it was a
reminder that the student protesters are vulnerable, especially because of the
passions they inspire among some of their opponents.
The protest movement's core demands are for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha
and his government to step down, the constitution to be amended to be more
democratic, and the monarchy reformed to make it more accountable.
Their issue concerning the monarchy is the most controversial because the
royal institution by law and tradition is virtually untouchable, and regarded
by many as the bedrock of national identity. The military has declared defense
of the monarchy to be among its foremost duties.
The protest leaders believe that King Maha Vajiralongkorn holds more power
than is appropriate under a constitutional monarchy, and have made that the
centerpiece of their campaigning in recent weeks. Although any criticism of the
monarchy used to be taboo, speeches at the rallies --- as well as signs and
chants __ include caustic words about the king and the palace.
In response, Thai authorities this past week escalated their legal battle
against protest leaders, charging 12 of them with violating a harsh law against
defaming the monarchy. The lese majeste law carries a penalty of three to 15
years' imprisonment, but has not been used for the past three years.
Historically, defending the monarchy has been abused for political reasons.
It has also triggered violence, most notably in 1976, when it led to the
killings of dozens of students at a university protest against the return from
exile of an ousted military dictator. That event was the trigger for a coup,
and since then Thailand has had successful coups in 1977, 1991, 2006 and 2014.
There is concern that if the government feels it cannot control the
protests, which show little sign of abating, it may impose martial law or be
ousted by the army in a coup.
Some speakers on Friday evening urged the crowd to take measures to resist
any coup that might be launched.
Panupong "Mike Rayong" Jadnok urged both symbolic and actual resistance in
case the military tried a takeover. "If a coup is staged, please tie a white
ribbon in front of your house. If they take it away, we will just tie one back
on again," he said.
He said people should also abandon their cars in the road, declaring that "A
coup cannot be achieved again as long as we come out and seize every
intersection across the country."
Resisting any coup attempt was the nominal theme of the rally, which began
in a festival-like atmosphere that has marked many of the protest events.
Oversized inflatable yellow rubber ducks that became icons of the movement
after they were used as shields against police water cannons were joined by
balloons in the image of silvery space aliens. The balloons are displayed to
mock accusations that foreigners --- "aliens" --- fund and direct the protest
Earlier Friday, in another sign that the government was stiffening its
crackdown, a television commentator who has been covering the protests said he
had been summoned by police to face a charge of violating an emergency decree
banning the rallies that was temporarily in force in October. The decree was
ignored by protesters, with little attempt at enforcement.
Sirote Klampaiboon works with Voice TV, a digital TV and web station that is
sympathetic to the protest movement. It has livesteamed all of the major
rallies, and the government sought to shut it down but was told by a court that
it improperly tried to do so.
Sirote said he was being bullied.
"I don't know what I did wrong. I am not a protester. I went to the protest
as a reporter. In my life, I've never done anything illegal," he said on his TV