But as the protest movement has strengthened over the past three months, taboos surrounding the monarchy have fallen in rapid succession. In Parliament, opposition legislators are demanding an investigation of royal budgets. (After his father’s death in 2016, King Maha Vajiralongkorn took personal control of the crown’s assets.)
In cinemas, people no longer feel obliged to stand for a photo montage of the king that precedes each screening.
And protesters, old and young alike, have demanded that the 10th king of the Chakri Dynasty, who was formally crowned last year with a 16-pound Great Crown of Victory, not be positioned above the country’s Constitution.
“We are going to fight for democracy, fight for freedom, fight for the equality of us as human beings,” a protest leader popularly known as Justin Samutprakan said on Wednesday. “We will not bow, prostrate, crawl ever again.”
“As humans, no one is bigger than anyone,” he added. “No one has power more than others.”
Dozens of protest leaders, many students, have been arrested in recent weeks and charged with crimes like sedition that carry imprisonment for up to seven years. Early on Thursday, at least three protest leaders, Arnon Nampa, Parit Chirawat and Panupong Jadnok, were arrested, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group. Each had been arrested before.
The rally on Wednesday also brought out large numbers of royalist counterprotesters in yellow shirts symbolizing their loyalty to the king. Some had the matching buzz cuts often worn by members of the security forces, suggesting that their defense of the Thai crown was an official duty rather than a personal mission.