Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators staged another round of protests on the streets of Bangkok on Wednesday after the revival of Thailand’s “lèse-majesté” law, which bans criticism of the royal family.
Protesters broke tradition by dissenting against the monarchy and demanding that Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn give up control of a royal fortune estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars, and return the money to the people.
Crowds swelled outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) – the country’s largest bank – in which the king is the largest shareholder, with a 23 percent stake valued at more than $2.3 billion.
Attendees gave a three-finger salute, a gesture borrowed from the Hunger Games film and book franchise, and also brandished inflatable yellow rubber ducks, both of which have become symbols of the Thai protests in recent months.
The largely-peaceful protests, which police said involved 8,000 people, reportedly descended into violence, with several gunshots reported at around 10:15pm local time. Bangkok’s Erawan Emergency Medical Centre said a man had been shot in the abdomen before being rushed by ambulance to the city’s Praram 9 Hospital.
Footage posted online also captured the moment a man wearing a white helmet appeared to hurl an unidentified object near the Thai capital’s Ratchayothin intersection causing a bang, with local media reporting it was some kind of explosive device.
— Thai PBS News (@ThaiPBSNews) November 25, 2020
Police also exercised new street tactics on Wednesday, stacking up metal shipping containers, fortified with razor wire, in order to block off protest routes. But, catching wind of the improvised roadblocks on Tuesday night, demonstrators shifted the location of Wednesday’s protests to the SCB headquarters in central Bangkok.
— ittipat pinrarod (@ittipat_tv) November 25, 2020
รัฐบาลระดมตู้คอนเทนเนอร์นับร้อยปิดกรุงเทพ สกัดประชาชนเดินขบวนไปสำนักทรัพย์สินพระมหากษัตริย์ ค่าเช่าตู้ละ 3,000-6,000 บาท/วัน ไม่รวมค่าขนส่วตามระยะทาง ขณะที่ผู้ชุมนุมประกาศไปธนาคารไทยพาณิชย์ สำนักงานใหญ่ ตั้งแต่เมื่อคืน#ม็อบ25พฤศจิกา#25พฤศจิกาไปSCB pic.twitter.com/TfnjhuikL7
— sirote klampaiboon (@sirotek) November 25, 2020
Dozens of Thais have been injured in recent weeks as student-led protests calling for constitutional reform and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha have shaken the Southeast Asian country.
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The re-imposition of the lèse-majesté law after three years appears to be a bid by the government to quell the protests, with the law carrying a maximum 15-year sentence for those found guilty of breaches. Fifteen protest organizers have been summoned under the law, according to police, who say those accused have until the end of the month to acknowledge their crimes.
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