Turning point in Thailand: Queen’s brush with protest

Turning point in Thailand: Queen’s brush with protest

A defining moment in Thailand’s growing protest movement started with the unannounced arrival of a champagne-coloured Rolls Royce stretch limousine on a Bangkok street.

When Queen Suthida’s motorcade slowed as it encountered a few dozen protesters jeering outside Bangkok’s Government House on Oct 14, royalists denounced it as unforgivable harassment in a kingdom whose constitution demands reverence for the monarchy.

The government, led by a former army chief who was the initial target of months of protests, responded swiftly.

It banned protests and made dozens of arrests. But that spurred more demonstrations — and much greater criticism of a monarchy that protesters say has helped to enable decades of military domination.

At a time when King Maha Vajiralongkorn has faced unprecedented scrutiny, many Thais have questioned why the queen was on that road at that time, and have challenged the severity of the reaction — which also included three arrests on little-used charges that could carry the death penalty.