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Thai protesters challenge King’s authority over army units

BANGKOK: Thai anti-government protesters yesterday challenged King Maha Vajiralongkorn's personal control over some army units to condemn the military's role in politics.

It was the latest open defiance of the King by protesters, who have broken taboos by criticising the monarchy in a country where it is officially revered under the constitution and laws ban citizens from insulting it.

Hundreds of protesters gathered to march to the 11th Infantry Regiment, one of two units that were moved under the King's command last year.

"An army should belong to the people, not the King," Mr Parit Chiwarak told reporters.

"In a democratic system, the King is not responsible for directing command of the military."

Protesters accuse the monarchy of enabling decades of military domination.

Mr Parit is among several protest leaders who already face charges under lese majeste laws against insulting the monarchy after his speeches at rallies.

Protests which began in July initially demanded the departure of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader, and a new Constitution, but now also seek to curb the powers of the King.

At the barracks, an advance guard of protesters set about removing razor wire barricades.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country must adhere to the rule of law, amd that the right to freedom of speech must keep within it.

"In every case where the law is violated, officials will take action with strict adherence to the appropriate legal processes without discrimination," the ministry said.

Mr Prayut has rejected protesters' demands that he quit, along with their accusations that he engineered last year's election to keep power that he first took from an elected government in 2014.

The Royal Palace has made no comment since the protests began, but the King has said that despite their actions the protesters are loved "all the same". - REUTERS

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