Thai protesters dare to challenge the untouchable monarchy, mocking their king who hides in Germany
- Pro-democracy protests have rumbled on for a month in Thailand, with calls for free elections and a new constitution.
- Now, anti-monarchy sentiment is on the rise, with many calling for a true constitutional monarchy and mocking their king, Rama X.
- Many people do not dare criticize the monarchy in Thailand because the country operates strict lèse-majesté laws that make it illegal to insult, defame, or threaten any member of the royal family.
- King Rama X has been waiting out the coronavirus pandemic in Germany since at least March. Multiple outlets have reported that he is in a luxury German hotel with 20 women.
- The hashtag "Why do we need a king?" trended on Thai-language Twitter after he fled.
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Pro-democracy protests are growing in size in Thailand, with demonstrators seizing on the momentum to challenge the legitimacy of their playboy sovereign.
Since July 18, protesters have amassed daily in Bangkok, demanding free elections, a new constitution, and an end to the harassment of activists by the military. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people rallied at the city's Democracy Monument on Sunday, according to reports.
In recent weeks, reform of the monarchy has joined the list of demands for many demonstrators.
The country has operated as a constitutional monarchy since 1932 after a revolution ended absolute rule.
Many people in Thailand do not dare to criticize their monarchy due to the country's strict lèse-majesté laws, which make it illegal to insult, defame, or threaten any member of the royal family. Criticizing the monarchy is punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
King Rama X has come under attack in recent months for fleeing the country during the coronavirus pandemic.
King Rama acceded to the throne in 2016, but has spent large chunks of his rule in Europe.
He has been in Germany since at least March. Multiple news outlets reported earlier this year that he was waiting out the pandemic with 20 female companions in a four-star hotel in the the Bavarian Alps.
After news of King Rama's flight, the hashtag #WhyDoWeNeedAKing began trending on Thai-language Twitter.
Last Wednesday, members of the Free People protest group held a press conference where they reiterated their demands for the government, but did not directly attack the monarchy.
The group said their dream of a constitutional monarchy "is possible under the constitutional process in a democratic system which gives power to the people," the Bangkok Post reported.
"Once the constitution is rewritten, every true demand of the people will be spoken of and recognized," they added.
"Moreover, under the constitution, all are equal without any exception."
Critics of the country's 2017 constitution say it is weak and allowed Prayut Chan-o-cha, the current military-backed prime minister who oversaw the new constitution, to win the 2019 election with ease.
The law preventing criticism of the monarchy has led to protesters using Harry Potter references as a front for their discontent.
As Insider's Jacob Sarkisian previously reported, they dressed up straw man as Voldemort, the villain of the novels, and carried banners urging the removal of "he who must not be named.
Pro-human rights protesters carried signs reading "trans witches are witches" and "trans wizards are wizards."
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