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Turbulent Thailand

Thailand protesters seek to submit letters to king

Key organizer calls for Sunday rally to directly communicate with country’s monarch

 Anti-government demonstrators flash a three-finger salute at Bangkok's Democracy Monument during a protest on the 47th anniversary of Thailand's 1973 student uprising on Oct. 14.   © Reuters

BANGKOK -- A group organizing Thailand's pro-democracy protests has called on supporters to write letters to King Maha Vajiralongkorn after announcing plans for a massive rally on Sunday.

A banner on the People website posted at noon on Thursday heralded what was described as "the biggest march ever" set for Sunday afternoon. People is among several leading anti-government groups including Free Youth, Free People and the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration demanding reform of the monarchy.

"We encourage you to write your own letters to be submitted to our king," the banner said in urging participants to gather at Bangkok's Democracy Monument at 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Leaders of People could not be reached for comment. But the group's webpage administrator told Nikkei Asia on Thursday: "This is the first time that we (the demonstrators) are trying to directly contact the king as we have asked protesters to write their own letters expressing their feelings to him and bring them" to the rally.

"However, we are still not quite sure whether the king would come out to receive the letters himself or if he would assign someone to take them," said the page administrator, who asked not to be named.

Thailand has been experienced weeks of massive street demonstrations, with protesters demanding changes to the monarchy, a long-held taboo in the Southeast Asian country. Besides reducing the powers of the monarchy, protesters have been repeating two other basic demands: the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his cabinet and constitutional changes drafted in consultation with representatives of the Thai people.

The latest move follows recent public appearances by the king who described Thailand as "a land of compromise" in remarks to a British reporter on Nov. 1 as he mingled with 8,000 supporters of the monarchy outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

The king normally resides in Germany, but has been making frequent public appearances during his longest stay in Thailand since acceding to the throne in 2016. But direct communication with protesters has yet to occur.

However, protest leaders told Nikkei on Tuesday that they saw no room for compromise after viewing the 37-second video of the king's comments.

"I don't see any chance of compromise or talks," Passaravalee Thanakijvibulphol, a protest leader known as "Mind," told Nikkei.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, another People leader, Jutapat Boonpattararaksa, known as "Pai Dao Din," also dismissed Prayuth's proposal to set up an inclusive committee to find ways to break the current political impasse.

"We will not take part in any committee set up by the government," Jatupat told reporters in front of the Grand Palace where protesters gathered. "We insist that the problems our nation faces cannot be solved if Prayuth remains in power."

However, political experts are not expecting any major breakthroughs as a result of the weekend rally.

"I don't expect to see any big surprise or violence on Sunday as all of their demands have been sent out to the public and to the king," Boonyakiat Karavekphan, a political scientist of Ramkamhaeng University, told Nikkei. "So the protest will be a symbolic one to help maintain the protest mood's momentum."

Boonyakiat added it would likely be similar to a recent protest at the German Embassy in Bangkok in which demonstrators gathered, submitted a letter to the German ambassador and returned home.

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