Thailand pro-democracy protesters mark end of absolute monarchy

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Political activists from several groups across Thailand staged peaceful protests around the country on Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the 1932 revolt which ended the absolute monarchy in the country.

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The demonstrations come as more Thais are speaking out against a military-dominated political system and as monuments to the establishment of democracy have been disappearing here from public spaces.

The 1932 revolt, led by a group of civilian bureaucrats and military officers known as the People’s Party, has in recent years emerged as a symbolic date for pro-democracy groups.

Thailand was under military rule for five years until an election last year that kept former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in power in a vote that opposition parties said was rigged. Prayuth and Thai courts reject claims the election was manipulated.

At one of the protests at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, 30-40 activists played a large-screen video re-enacting the speech made by People’s Party leaders after they toppled the government of King Prajadhipok and ushered in Thailand’s first constitution.

“Eighty-eight years ago today around dawn, the People’s Party seized power and changed the system of governance to a democracy,” said pro-democracy activist Anon Nampa.

At another protest planned at parliament, another group of activists will demand amendments to the current constitution written by the recent junta.

“We want to use the revolt anniversary to make our point about the problematic nature of the current constitution drafted by the military,” said Anusorn Unno of the Committee Campaigning for a People’s Constitution.

Police say they are monitoring protests in at least 12 provinces. Thailand has banned large public gatherings during the coronavirus emergency, but authorities did not block the demonstrations.

In remarks on Tuesday, Prayuth did not directly address the protests, but he told people “don’t violate the monarchy and don’t violate the law.”

While Thailand is officially a constitutional monarchy, King Maha Vajiralongkorn wields immense power and insulting him is a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Michael Perry