Thailand’s prime minister said Thursday the majority of the kingdom find its ongoing pro-democracy protests “unacceptable”, as the youth-led movement grows bolder in targeting Thai power.
The country has seen near-daily anti-government demonstrations for weeks by student-led groups demanding an overhaul of Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s administration and a rewrite of a 2017 military-scripted constitution.
A massive protest on Monday also saw organisers read out demands for the unassailable monarchy, and activists called for frank discussion about its role in Thailand.
Despite thousands attending the rally, Prayut on Thursday told reporters that much of the country does not believe in their pro-democracy cause.
“The government hopes that they don’t take a chance to create chaos,” he said after a cabinet meeting.
“It’s a very risky issue and it is unacceptable to the majority of Thais.”
Thailand’s super-rich royal family, which commands a fortune of up to $60 billion, sits at the apex of Thai power, supported by a powerful military and the elite billionaire class.
The kingdom’s controversial royal defamation law shields King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism and open scrutiny.
It carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison per charge for anyone perceived as violating it.
The pro-democracy protesters have called for the law to be abolished.
Since Monday’s demonstration at Thammasat University, more than 140 lecturers from all over the country have signed a petition supporting the organisers.
They “agree that this expression of opinions was lawful based on the basic principles of democracy”, the petition reads.
On Thursday, about a dozen royalist demonstrators gathered near the Thammasat campus carrying signs calling for authorities to “prosecute those who insult the monarchy”.
Prosecutions under the royal defamation law have slowed in recent years, but legal observers say the government has pivoted to other legislation to target dissent.
The digital economy minister on Tuesday said Facebook, Twitter and YouTube would receive court orders to remove 114 instances of “inappropriate content” or risk prosecution under the Computer Crimes Act.
Facebook declined to comment specifically on these cases, saying only that it has “a global process for government requests”.
Two activists were last week arrested and then released on bail for allegedly committing sedition and breaking coronavirus rules when they took part in a July 18 rally.
The mostly young anti-government protesters do not appear to have a single leader, and have relied on social media campaigns to spread news of their rallies across the country.