Thai protesters call on king to give up royal fortune

Thai demonstrators call for the king to give up his fortune of tens of billions of dollars as government threatens protest leaders with 15 years in prison

  • Thai protesters gathered outside of Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok today
  • King Maha Vajiralongkorn is the banks biggest shareholder with 23 per cent
  • Police summoned protest leaders on charges of insulting the monarchy Tuesday

Thousands of demonstrators called on Thailand’s king to give up control of a royal fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars today.

The demand comes as the latest in months of demonstrations focused squarely on King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the monarchy.

The protesters have broken a longstanding taboo by criticising the king in high profile demonstrations across the country. 

Police summoned 12 of the best-known protest leaders on Tuesday on charges of lese majeste, or insulting the monarchy, which can mean up to 15 years in prison.

Most of the protest leaders are already facing multiple charges, ranging from blocking traffic to sedition.

Demonstrators (pictured at a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok) called on Thailand’s king to give up control of a royal fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars today

Pro-democracy protesters give the three-finger salute as they take part in an anti-government rally outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok, Thailand

Miniature yellow ducks are fixed atop helmets prepared by protesters outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok today.

Giant rubber ducks that have become emblems of the protest. Pictured: Protesters sit on inflatable yellow ducks outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok, Thailand, today

King Maha Vajiralongkorn (pictured with Queen Suthida the opening of a new mass transit station in Bangkok, Thailand, on November 14) owns a 23 per cent stake in Siam Commercial Bank, making him the biggest shareholder

‘This law is ancient and barbaric. Every time it is used it damages the monarchy and the nation,’ said Parit ‘Penguin’ Chiwarak, who is among those facing charges. 

He dressed in a yellow duck suit, echoing the giant rubber ducks that have become emblems of the protest.

The demonstration, joined by around 2,000 people, had originally been scheduled at the Crown Property Bureau, which manages the royal assets.

But after police built siege barricades of shipping containers and razor wire, the venue was moved to the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in which the king’s stake of more than 23 per cent makes him the biggest shareholder.

‘The SCB shares should not belong to the king but the finance ministry, so the dividend can be used to develop the country,’ said Boss, 28, a protester who declined to give his full name.

Protesters attend a pro-democracy rally demanding Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn hands back royal assets to the people outside Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok today

A protester holds mock Thai Baht banknote featuring a yellow duck while wearing a miniature duck accessory outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok, Thailand, today

Thousands of protesters gather outside Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok, Thailand, today to demand King Maha Vajiralongkorn hands back royal assets to the people 

Demonstrators hold up their phones at the pro-democracy rally demanding Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn hands back royal assets to the people 

Protesters wearing coronavirus face masks show the three-finger salute in Bangkok today as they attend a rally demanding Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn hands back royal assets to the people

Shares in the bank rose more than two per cent on Wednesday, more than twice as much as the broader market. 

Accessories featuring the image of a yellow rubber duck, a movement icon, could be seen almost everywhere. Protest leader Anon Nampa even gave a fiery speech from a truck-bed stage while wearing a duck costume.

The ducks became a symbol of resistance last week when human-size inflatable ducks were brought to a rally outside Parliament and satirically dubbed the protesters’ navy. 

When police turned water cannons on them, the ducks served as makeshift shields. 

The palace has made no comment since the protests began, but when the king was asked about the protesters recently he said they were ‘loved all the same’.

Protest leader Anon Nampa speaks during the pro-democracy rally in Bangkok, Thailand, while wearing a duck outfit

Protesters shout slogans outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok, Thailand, today

Demonstrators hold placards calling for the abolition of Section 112 of the criminal code, which can mean up to 15 years in prison for insulting the monarchy

protester wears yellow duck shaped accessories on their head outside the headquarters of the Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok, Thailand, today

Some of the king’s critics quoted those words sarcastically after the summonses on charges of insulting the monarchy, which Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had said in June were not being used at the request of the king.

International human rights groups also condemned the use of the charges. Police sources said 15 protest leaders faced the charges, which they must acknowledge by the end of the month. 

Responding to the criticism, government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek said: ‘The government has been open-minded to rights and freedoms despite many imprudent expressions which offend the majority. 

‘The government must use its authorised powers.’

Since July, protesters have been calling for the removal of Prayuth, a former junta leader. 

He rejects accusations that he engineered last year’s election to keep hold of power he seized in a 2014 coup.

The protesters seek to make the king more accountable under the constitution as well as the reversal of changes which gave him personal control of some army units and the crown assets estimated to be worth more than $30 billion.

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