BANGKOK — Pro-democracy activists said Wednesday they will stage the next major rally against the government at Sanam Luang, right in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok’s historic quarter.
The group calling itself the United Front of Thammasat said the protesters will “seize Sanam Luang back for the people” on Sept. 19 and camp there for a night. The demonstrators will then march to Government House on the following day and submit a petition to PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration, he said.
“The United Front has chosen Thammasat University, Tha Prachan [campus], because the site has been an important icon of democratic movements for a long time,” co-leader Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul reads out the group’s statement.
Also speaking at the news conference was Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak, who said “I urge everyone to join the rally this Sept. 19. All roads lead to Thammasat Tha Prachan.
The group urged the protesters to gather inside the campus from 2pm onwards on Sept. 19. The site was picked because the group regarded it as a “bastion of pro-democracy movements,” according to the statement.
Parit and Panusaya said the rally will take place under the name “Sept. 19: Bring Back the Power to People.”
The date of Sept. 19 also coincides with the military coup that toppled PM Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 and is now considered by many analysts to be a major turning point in Thai political history.
Parit also confirmed the monarchy will definitely be the subject of discussion at the rally.
“The ceiling has already been broken since the 10 demands were announced, now it’s time for us to flutter,” the activist said.
He was responding to a comment by an ex-leader of the Redshirt movement, Jatuporn Prompan, who warned the students not to “break the ceiling” by touching the monarchy. Jatuporn said doing so might end up paving a way for another military coup.
“I think it’s a bad attitude,” Parit said. “It’s like The Wolf and the Lamb story. No matter what, the wolf will find a reason to eat the lamb.”
He added that a “big surprise” awaits at the rally, and refused to say what it is when asked by a reporter.
If the United Front makes good on its pledge, it would be the first large protest on the field of Sanam Luang, known formally as the Royal Cremation Ground.
Though originally designed as the venue to hold funerals for members of the Royal Family in the feudal era, Sanam Luang was better known for decades as the common space for markets, sports, and demonstrations.
But the site has been closed off to the public since 2012. Entry to Sanam Luang became even more strict after the royal cremation of the late King Rama IX in 2017.
Despite its name, the 74.5 rai (11.92 hectare) tuff is officially owned by the City Hall. The City Hall regulation forbids any gatherings that are political in nature.