Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters and royalist supporters of King Maha Vajiralongkorn staged rival shows of force on Wednesday with political tension growing after three months of demonstrations. Among the anti-government protesters’ demands are for curbs on the constitutional powers of the king and for him to transfer back the personal control he took of some army units and a palace fortune valued in the tens of billions of dollars.
Openly challenging the monarchy of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, thousands of protesters marched in Bangkok on Sunday to present demands that include a call for reforms to curb his powers. Protesters have grown ever bolder during two months of demonstrations against Thailand’s palace and military-dominated establishment, breaking a long-standing taboo on criticizing the monarchy – which is illegal under lese majeste laws.
Facebook on Tuesday blocked access within Thailand to a group that has criticized the country’s king but said it was planning a legal challenge to the government’s demand that it restrict access to the organization’s page. The move comes amid near daily youth-led protests against the government and unprecedented calls for reforms of the monarchy, in a country that has experienced decades of protests punctuated by military coups.
A Thai soldier armed with military firearms rampaged through a bustling shopping mall and an army camp, killing 29 people before he himself was killed after a 17-hour standoff with security forces, Thai officials said, in a rare mass shooting that has shaken the country. After live-streaming part of the shooting on Facebook, the gunman holed up in the mall with several hostages, as police secured the area in the early-morning darkness.
Two major political parties raised doubts on Monday about the accuracy of Thailand’s election results after a party linked to the military took a surprise lead in the popular vote count that suggested the country’s junta chief could remain in power. Unofficial results of the Southeast Asian nation’s first election since a 2014 coup had been expected at 2 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Monday. However, the Election Commission said it would announce only the winners of 350 seats at 4 p.m. (0900 GMT) and a breakdown of votes for those seats would come on Friday.
Renewed calls for a ban on child kickboxing matches in Thailand arose following the death of 13-year-old Anucha Tasako who died of a brain hemorrhage after fighting in a Muay Thai match near Bangkok on Saturday. The Thai parliament is reviewing legislation to ban children under 12 from participating in boxing matches.
Cave divers resumed the mission to rescue the remaining eight boys and their coach trapped in a Thailand cave after four boys were brought out safely on Sunday. Elon Musk created and tested a ‘kid-size submarine’ as a potential aid in the rescue. Officials say the evacuation could take up to four days to complete.
Rescuers will take no risks freeing 12 boys and their football coach who were discovered in a Thailand cave. The boys and their coach have received food, medical treatment, and telephone access to speak to their families. Rescuers must now decide whether to train the boys to dive or wait months for flooding to recede.
Thailand’s king has sacked six palace officials for what has been described as “extremely evil” conduct. The group includes a woman, a senior police official and two royal guards. The move comes just days after King Maha Vajiralongkorn fired his former bodyguard, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, who was appointed royal consort in July – becoming the first person to be named in the position in almost a century.
Thailand approved marijuana for medical use and research on Tuesday, the first legalization of the drug in a region with some of the world’s strictest drug laws. The junta-appointed parliament in Thailand, a country which until the 1930s had a tradition of using marijuana to relieve pain and fatigue, voted to amend the Narcotic Act of 1979 in an extra parliamentary session handling a rush of bills before the New Year’s holidays.