A massive crowd of pro-democracy protesters marched along Phaholyothin Road from Wat Phra Sri Mahathat to their destination, the 11th Infantry Regiment, yesterday, November 29, to symbolically show resistance against the military and government and to raise a public question against what they call a Monarchy, military and elite alliance.
At 10:38 A.M., the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration announced the rally relocation from the 1st Infantry Division to the 11th Infantry Regiment, the King’s Guard, at 3:00 P.M. after the First Division was heavily blocked by shipping containers and rolls of barbed-wire fences since Saturday night. The protesters stated they decided to change locations to avoid major conflict and potential problems.
The 11th Infantry Regiment was chosen as a protest venue because of its symbolic value – in 2019, it was transferred from the army to come under the direct control of His Royal Majesty the King. It was also the main division where the military authorities were deployed to suppress an oppositional red-shirt protest in 2010 and played an important role in past coups.
Barbed wire fences and wrecks of old buses were laid outside the Regiment headquarters, blocking the entrance and exit gates. Black sheets were used to cover the unit’s name sign to prevent it from being vandalized with colored paint. A group of riot police was lined up and stood ready for the protest as of the gathering time. Water cannon trucks were also reportedly seen inside the unit.
The march to the destination, located a kilometer away, began as of 6:00 PM. Many prominent protest leaders, including Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, and Arnon Nampa, had presented at the demonstration. They asked the protesters not to dismantle the coils of barbed wire, try to break through the police barricade, and vandalize police properties, which the majority listened to, although a few minority protesters did paint graffiti and puncture tires on police vehicles until protest leaders told them to stop to avoid raising tensions.
Pro-democracy protesters have repeatedly intensely and explicitly pressured Thailand’s highest institution for reform (Not abolition) and targeted all areas of their power, financially and militarily, despite the harsh lese majeste laws and the fact that nearly all major protest leaders have now been summoned under the law. Other demands from the protesters are the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O’Cha, dissolving Parliament, removing military appointed senators and the rewriting of a new charter Constitution. They also are calling for education reform and to stop harassment of protesters.
At the end of the rally, a pro-democracy statement was read, stating that the 11th Infantry Regiment was originally established by the People. The unit was renamed the “People’s Guard” as the protesters claimed that the monarchy does not need a private force. The statement was also delivered to the unit authority.
Red painted colors were splashed at the feet of the riot police to signify the security forces’ role in deadly crackdowns on previous pro-democracy movements and a tribute to 99 red-shirt protesters who were killed during dispersal actions in 2010.
Although several police vans were painted with graffiti and some of their tires were punctured, the protest remained mostly peaceful and was called off at around 10:00 PM. The next gathering will be staged on December 2 at the Constitutional Court, where Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-O’Cha will be given a ruling regarding an alleged abuse of power in military housing.
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