21 May 2024

Anti-government protesters have ended their rally in front of the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) on Ratchayothin Road after an outpouring of vitriol against the monarchy that centred on the assets of HM the King and those of the Crown Property Bureau.

They also called for transparency in how royal assets are managed and reiterated their demand for a reform of the monarchy and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign.

The protesters began gathering in front of the bank at around 3 pm and started dispersing at 9.15 pm.  They called for another rally on Friday at 4 pm but have yet to decide on the venue.

The protesters had originally planned to rally at the headquarters of the Crown Property Bureau but changed their mind at the last minute to move their demonstration to the bank, claiming they did not want to confront groups of royalists who were also planning counter demonstrations near the same venue.

Protest leader Parit Chiwarak, better known as “Penguin”, said SCB was chosen as an alternative rally because the Crown Property Bureau is its biggest shareholder.   SCB is Thailand’s oldest bank and its biggest lender by assets.

Parit directed his criticism particularly at the 2018 Royal Assets Structuring Act adopted by the post-coup regime. The act combines His Majesty the King’s personal assets and the crown’s wealth managed by the Crown Property Bureau.

Well-known social critic Sulak Sivaraksa made an unexpected appearance at the rally and at one point took to the stage to lambast Prime Minister Prayut for having many of the protest leaders charged for lese majeste offences under Article 112 of the Penal Code.

At least 12 protest leaders, including Parit, have been issued with summonses to acknowledge lese majeste charges.

Prime Minister Prayut earlier dismissed rumours that he was planning to declare martial law to deal with the ongoing political unrests.  He said existing laws are sufficient to deal with the situation.