BANGKOK — Pro-monarchy supporters gather in large numbers on Sunday in a show of force amid calls to reform the revered institution made by some anti-government activists.
United under a newly founded group named Thai Phakdee, or ‘Loyal Thais,’ speakers at the rally inside Thai-Japan Din Daeng Stadium said they would not tolerate what they perceived as attacks on the monarchy, and accuse foreign powers of encouraging the protests against PM Prayut Chan-ocha.
About 1,000 people attended the rally, which was marked by passionate speeches in defense of the monarchy, a slew of unfounded accusations, and violence against a janitor who was wearing a red colored T-shirt.
“When will those who hate this nation leave the country?” 15-year-old speaker Kochayotee Chiebplan said to loud cheers. “How will we live as long as we have those people who hate the nation?”
Kochayotee was a notable exception to the rest of the crowd’s demographics; most were in their 40s and older. Many were from the south and the northeast.
Patiyuth Thongpachon, a member of Thai Phakdee, also said anti-government protesters “are harassing the institution that is highly loved by the people,” a common reference to the monarchy.
A short documentary glorifying King Rama X was screened, along with patriotic music composed by His Majesty’s father, the late king Rama IX, to boost Thais’ morale in their fight against the Communists during the Cold War.
It was followed by speakers dishing out conspiracy theories that implicate the governments of the United States and other Western countries in the ongoing anti-government protests.
“Western powers want us to be divided. They encouraged a mindset that hates the pillars of oru country,” Hatai “U” Muangboonsri said onstage.
“These people use social media to destroy the monarchy, to weaken the institution,” she said. “These are people who have ill intentions towards Thailand. They want Thailand to be weak.”
She went on to claim that even people in the U.S. are fed up with democracy and urging the U.S. armed forces to overthrow their civilian government in a military coup. Hatai also claimed the U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren once said Thai people did not need democracy, but a strong Constitution.
Online searches did not turn up any evidence for those remarks. Nevertheless, Hatai was given the longest amount of time to speak on the stage – about an hour. She also sought to tone down her speeches and pointed out the need for love towards those on the other side.
“Thailand must move forward with love and unity,” Hatai said.
Some placards held up by the protesters also accused pro-democracy activists of trying to overthrow the monarchy through their calls for 10 ways the institution should be reformed.
With over 1,000 people in the audience, it was the largest counter-protest in response to the student-led movement against the government so far. Seats were spaced out to comply with anti-coronavirus measures. Previous pro-establishment rallies attracted only a handful of supporters.
Man in Red Attacked
Not long after the rally concluded, a cleaner at the stadium was assaulted by a group of unidentified men in the same vicinity.
On Monday, Pol. Col. Torkiat Prombutr identified the victim as Sukhon Puttarn, 60. Police said it’s unclear if the attack was related to Sunday’s protest.
Sukhon, who was in safe condition as of Monday, said he was sweeping excess rainwater from a footpath with a bloom stick before he was confronted by some men, and then beaten.
He said he wore red because it’s the lucky color identified with Sunday, and not because of any political affiliation.
Thai Phakdee deputy sec-gen Patiyut Thongprachong denied any involvement. He told the media that Thai Phakdee did not employ any guards, and he had no information on who the assailant might have been.
Patiyut also said he heard Sukhon was “tipsy” at the time of the attack, though he added that he supported a police investigation into the matter.