BANGKOK: Hundreds marched in Bangkok and lit ceremonial fires in front of a courthouse on Saturday to protest Thailand’s draconian royal defamation law and the jailing of several prominent pro-democracy activists.
The protesters are part of a youth-led movement that kicked off last July calling for an overhaul to Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s government and a scrapping of the country’s military-scripted constitution.
They are also demanding the abolition of a lese majeste law which shields the kingdom’s ultra-powerful King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the royal family from defamation, and carries penalties of up to 15 years per charge.
The law has been broadly interpreted to cover anything perceived as negative towards the royals, effectively muzzling critics — which is why the movement’s calls for reforms have sent a lightning bolt through Thai society.
As protesters marched to Bangkok’s criminal court, they chanted “Prayut, Get Out!” and “Abolish 112” — the penal code section of the lese majeste law.
“The younger generation have the same objectives as me,” said Kanokwan, 51.
“I don’t fear violence and I want a new government, a new constitution and monarchy reform.”
When they arrived at the court, some protesters piled up garbage and set it on fire beneath a portrait of the king, as others held up posters depicting prominent activists currently behind bars for lese majeste.
Protesters chanted the names of human rights lawyer Anon Numpa and student leader Parit…