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Turbulent Thailand

Thailand protesters plan rally at German Embassy after PM's silence

Prayuth ignores demand to resign, prompting demonstrations with diplomatic twist

A protester wears a scarf in the colors of the German flag during demonstrations in Bangkok this week. Organizers have called for a gathering at the German Embassy on Monday.   © AP

BANGKOK -- Organizers of Thailand's pro-democracy protests have called for demonstrations at the German Embassy in Bangkok after demands that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha resign by 10 p.m. Saturday went unmet.

Supporters of the pro-democracy movement were told to gather Monday evening at the embassy, a symbolic move as Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn spends most of his time in the European country. Protesters have called for the monarchy to be reformed to curb the king's powers as part of their demands.

"See you at the German embassy at 17:00 on Monday," one of the protest groups posted on Twitter late Saturday. 

Such a rally would add a diplomatic twist to the protests, further increasing pressure on Prayuth.

Early this month, the German government made a rare public statement against the Thai king conducting Thai state affairs while in Germany. "We would always clearly counteract efforts by guests in our country to conduct affairs of state from our country," Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in parliament, responding to a query from an opposition lawmaker about the Thai monarch.

Protest organizers had delivered a resignation letter to Prayuth on Wednesday following a thousands-strong 3 km march from the capital's Victory Monument to the Goverment House, the location of the prime minister's office. Protesters reiterated their demand for him to resign on Saturday, warning of additional action.  

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha acknowledges supporters outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok on Friday.     © Reuters

"The deadline is 10 p.m. Saturday night," said Jatupat Boonpattarasaksa, 29, a pro-democracy activist known as "Pai Dao Din" who was released from police custody on Friday. "If there is no response from General Prayuth, we will stay here and will brainstorm a new strategy to fight together again."

There has been no response from the prime minister, but a source within Prayuth's inner circle recently told Nikkei Asia that he has no plans to step down.

"He has been given a mandate to govern by the 8.4 million voters who endorsed Palang Pracharat in last year's elections," the source said. "This works in his favor -- he has no reason to step down. He can count on the Palang Pracharat voters to continue."

A few hundred anti-government protesters meanwhile vowed to stay overnight in front of the Bangkok Remand Prison. They are demanding the government release protest leaders still in custody, including human rights lawyer Arnon Nampa and Panasuya Sithijirawattanakul, the student leader who read out a 10-point agenda to reform the monarchy.

Pai Dao Din announced at 10:40 p.m. Saturday they would gather at Ratchaprasong, a big crossing in Bangkok's commercial heart at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha mingled with royalist supporters at the Grand Palace on Oct. 23. He believes he has a democratic mandate to ignore student-led calls for his resignation.    © Reuters

Royalist groups dressed in yellow have been more evident in recent days, with gatherings in Bangkok and the provinces.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and other members of the royal family, who have been under unusually open scrutiny in recent months, mingled with ordinary royalists after a ceremony on Friday to commemorate his great grandfather, King Chulalongkorn. The king stepped out of his motorcade to meet supporters gathered outside the Grand Palace.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida leave a religious ceremony to commemorate his great grandfather, King Chulalongkorn, at Bangkok's Grand Palace on Oct. 23.   © Reuters

"Very brave, very brave, very good, thank you," the king told a man who had challenged anti-government protesters on Wednesday and raised a picture of the king's late father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, during an anti-government protest outside a Central department store in Bangkok's Pinklao district. A clip of the incident went viral.

Eleven days after protests resumed on a daily basis, the cabinet approved a royal decree to convene an extraordinary session of parliament on Monday and Tuesday, when senators and members of the lower house will discuss possible solutions.

Protesters are not expected to back down, however, and view the parliamentary gambit as an attempt to buy time and postpone addressing the protesters' demands.

"At the end, Prayuth will open the parliamentary session to whitewash himself and blame protesters," tweeted student leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree. He accused Prayuth of not having "even 0.0000001%" sincerity.

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