Thai King in the spotlight as pro-democracy protests continue

With strong calls for reform of monarchy, analysts say it will be difficult for King Vajiralongkorn to play a mediating role in the current turmoil

King Maha Vajiralongkorn has consolidated his power by taking personal control of the assets of the Crown Property Bureau and two army units. He also directed the government to rewrite parts of the Constitution that touched on the king's role.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn has consolidated his power by taking personal control of the assets of the Crown Property Bureau and two army units. He also directed the government to rewrite parts of the Constitution that touched on the king's role. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Police scuffling with anti-government demonstrators near a royal motorcade carrying Thailand's Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn, in front of Government House on Oct 14, the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok.
Police scuffling with anti-government demonstrators near a royal motorcade carrying Thailand's Queen Suthida and Prince Dipangkorn, in front of Government House on Oct 14, the 47th anniversary of the 1973 student uprising, in Bangkok. PHOTO: REUTERS
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Among the core demands of the thousands of pro-democracy protesters who have taken to the streets of Thailand since mid-July is one that was previously unthinkable.

They are appealing for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and amendments to the Constitution, but it is the most recent demand that is perhaps the most significant: The protesters want the monarchy to be reformed and the powers of 68-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn curbed.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 25, 2020, with the headline Thai King in the spotlight as pro-democracy protests continue. Subscribe