Sunday also saw a conservative protest in Bangkok in support of the monarchy where a key leader pointed to politicians as the source of the country’s problems and vowed the support of his group in defence of the revered institution. Last week, in Rayong, the Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha warned that the current situation was escalating and could see the kingdom ‘engulfed in flames’ if it was not halted.
Panupong Jadnok, a key leader of the student protest movement, at a rally in Samut Prakan on Sunday, set fire to an official notice handed to him by a senior police officer asking him and his fellow protesters to disperse. Mr Panupong or ‘Mike Rayong’ who was unmasked, made a short speech before the inflammatory act in which he denounced its contents as unconstitutional.
One of the key leaders of the student protests in Thailand, who was arrested earlier in the week for the second time on sedition charges, burned an official document in front of a senior police officer in Samut Prakan province on Sunday when he, along with others, was ordered by the policeman to call off the protest and meeting to comply with the law.
The student leaders of the anti-government protest, which called for an end to dictatorship in Thailand, were met by Deputy Chief of Police for Samut Prakan, Police Colonel Termras Chindawat.
Samut Prakan deputy police chief called on protestors to disperse as the gathering was illegal
The police officer explained that the gathering was illegal and asked the group to disperse and cancel their assembly. The policeman handed the student leader a copy of a document to serve as an official notice
However, Panupong Jadnok, also known as ‘Mike Rayong’, who was arrested for the second time in Rayong last week as the Thai cabinet visited his home province, had other ideas.
After taking the document from the policeman, Mr Panupong, unmasked, set it alight and held it for a moment in flames in front of the police officer doing his duty and wearing a face mask.
Document ran contrary to the constitution said rally leader before setting it aflame in front of the officer
Explaining his actions to the police officer, Mr Panupong said that he was refusing to comply and denounced the document and its contents, as contrary to the constitution before setting it aflame.
On stage at the event, attended by a vociferous crowd, was Ms Juthatip Sirikan, the President of the Thai Student’s Union and Parit Chiwarak popularly known as the ‘The Penguin’.
The meeting was provided with security by the Royal Thai Police and heard strong and controversial comments from the podium attacking the government and what speakers decried as the oppression of the traditional class system in Thailand.
The crowd stood for the Thai National Anthem but saluted it with the three-finger salute.
Prime Minister said last week he was at his ‘wit’s end’ over the growing level of political unrest and what it might lead to if things go on
Last week in Rayong, Thai Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, told reporters that he was at his ‘wit’s end’ because of the mounting political tension in the country.
He warned that the situation was already impacting the Thai economy and could spiral out of hand quickly and leave the kingdom ‘engulfed in flames’.
General Prayut has called repeatedly for unity and has warned the protestors that ultimately there will be consequences for their actions including legal charges and damage to their job prospects.
Meanwhile, the ongoing arrest of protestors continued last week targeting those who took part in the surprise protest rally on July 18th last which triggered this round of political unrest.
There were also additional arrests linked with the controversial rally at Thammasat University on August 10th which called openly for reform of the Thai monarchy.
Many of the key leaders of the protests are facing multiple Section 116 charges for sedition which could see them jailed for up to 5 years. The human rights lawyer, Arnon Nampa, has already been arrested and charged three times with this offence.
His latest arrest was in Bangkok on Tuesday.
Violent scuffles on Friday in Bangkok
This led to violent scenes outside Samran Rat Police Station on Friday when protestors, who had stayed at Democracy Monument overnight, marched from there to the police station to acknowledge relatively minor charges in relation to their protest activities.
Amid scuffles over barricades, outside the police station’s precincts, a can of blue paint was hurled at a police officer covering his neck in the colour but otherwise leaving him uninjured.
The protestor who threw the can describe his action as a work of art.
Royalist rally in Bangkok where conservative leader blamed politicians for the country’s problems
On the other side of the political divide, a gathering of pro royalist and conservative protestors staged a rally in Bangkok on Sunday. The rally was in support of the Thai King.
An enthusiastic crowd of approximately 1,200 turned up with bandanas emblazoned with ‘We Love the King’ and other slogans on placards such as ‘Save the Nation’ and ‘Don’t bully Loyalists’.
‘Conflict stems from politicians’
The leader of the conservative movement, Warong Dechgitvigrom, said the crowd represented people who had come together to defend the Thai monarchy which he felt was unfairly under attack in the latest round of political protests.
‘The point of our group is to protect the monarchy with knowledge and facts,’ he said.
He suggested that all of Thailand’s ills, at this moment, have nothing whatsoever to do with the monarchy but are linked to the political class.
‘We insist that the country’s conflicts stem from politicians,’ he concluded. ‘The monarchy institution has no part in governing the country. The institution is the moral support that connects the people together.’