Protesters Replace a Plaque That Vanished in 2017

Mass student-led rally in Thailand calls for reforms to the monarchy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 20, 2020 9:17 AM CDT
Protesters Replace a Plaque That Vanished in 2017
Pro-democracy protesters raise a three-fingers, symbol of resistance salute during a rally at Sanam Luang in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020.   (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Anti-government demonstrators occupying a historic field in the Thai capital on Sunday installed a plaque symbolizing the country's transition to democracy to replace the original one that was mysteriously ripped out and stolen three years ago, as they vowed to press on with calls for new elections and reform of the monarchy. The mass student-led rally—which had an estimated 20,000 people in attendance, per the AP—that began Saturday was the largest in a series of protests this year, with thousands camping overnight at Sanam Luang field near the royal palace in Bangkok. A group of activists drilled a hole in front of a makeshift stage and, after Buddhist rituals, laid down a round brass plaque in cement to commemorate the 1932 revolution that changed Thailand from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.

"At the dawn of Sept. 20, here is where the people proclaim that this country belongs to the people," read part of the inscription on the plaque. In April 2017, the original plaque vanished from Bangkok’s Royal Plaza and was replaced by one praising the monarchy. Protesters' demands seek to limit the king’s powers, establish tighter controls on palace finances, and allow open discussion of the monarchy. Their boldness was unprecedented, as the monarchy is considered sacrosanct in Thailand, with a harsh law that mandates a three- to 15-year prison term for defaming it. The protesters later attempted to march toward the Grand Palace to hand over a petition seeking royal reforms to the head of the Privy Council, the king's advisers, but were blocked by police barricades. But one protester was allowed to deliver the petition, which was addressed to the king. It was received by a police official, who promised to forward it to the council.

(More Thailand stories.)

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