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Thailand's anti-government protesters call on king to reach out for dialog

Pro-democracy protesters give the three-finger salute during an anti-government demonstration at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on November 8, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered in the Thai capital of Bangkok, calling on the country’s monarch to reach out for dialog and put an end to the months-long rallies for democratic reforms.

Thailand has been the scene of widespread demonstrations for reforms to the powerful monarchy since July, with protests breaking a long-standing taboo against criticizing the king and constitution, as well as growing calls for the removal of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The Thai protesters at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument urged King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Sunday to be open to dialog as they reiterated their call for an overhaul of the government and reform of the monarchy.

“We hope you will change your behavior once and for all and become a king of all people,” protest leader and rights lawyer Arnon Nampa said in a letter to the king posted online. “I hope Your Majesty will open your mind and reach out to dialog with us to solve the crises together.”

The protest organizers had asked pro-democracy demonstrators to bring letters for the king or send them online.

The protesters seek to put King Maha more clearly under the Thai constitution, reversing changes he made shortly after taking the throne as well as moves he made to take personal control of the palace fortune and some army units.

The protesters say the monarchy has helped enable decades of military domination of Thailand, most recently by approving the premiership of Prayuth, who seized power in a 2014 coup and kept it after disputed elections last year.

Several dozen monarchists gathered on the other side of the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on Sunday, wearing yellow shirts in the color of the king and waving Thai flags.

Criticism of the monarchy can be punished with 15 years in jail under Thailand’s constitutional laws.

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