Fri, 25 Sep 2020

Thai King Welcomes New Officials as Protests Rage

Voice of America
13 Aug 2020, 06:35 GMT+10

Thailand's King swore in six new cabinet officials Wednesday amid unprecedented student-led protests that have erupted in recent days denouncing the monarchy.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn called for "order and peace" during his remarks, but refrained from explicitly acknowledging the unrest. He blessed the new members, bestowing "good health and wisdom to have the strength to perform your duties according to your oaths."

The reorganization of the cabinet, which now includes banking executive Predee Daochai as finance minister and Supattanapong Punmeechaow as energy minister, comes as six ministers resigned last month, citing ruling party internal disputes.

Dissent in Thailand has been growing steadily since 2016, when the current monarch ascended the throne after his father's death. Over the past four years, he has enacted several security laws that restrict freedom of speech and criticism of the government.

Thailand is home to one of the world's most punitive lèse-majeste laws, which punishes those who insult the monarchy with a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Many in the government view the students' calls for more democracy radical and antithetical to Thai culture, which typically reveres the monarchy as semi-divine.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Tuesday that thousands of student protesters "went too far" after some issued a 10-point call for various reforms.

No student leaders have yet been charged under the lèse-majeste law, but two have been brought up on allegations of sedition and treason.

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