BANGKOK (Reuters) – The hashtag #RepublicofThailand trended on Twitter in Thailand on Friday after parliament voted to push back the question of changing the constitution as protesters have demanded.
During more than two months of anti-government protests, some protest leaders have said they seek constitutional reforms to reduce the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s monarchy but that they were not seeking to abolish it.
The republican hashtag, in English rather than Thai, had been used in more than 730,000 Tweets and was the top trending hashtag in Thailand on Friday morning, according to Twitter.
The Royal Palace did not comment and has made no response to requests for comment on the protests or the demands for royal reform.
Government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri said he had not seen the hashtag and declined to comment on it but said Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was listening to all sides on the issue of the constitution.
“There are those who want to amend the constitution and others who don’t,” he said.
Parliament, dominated by supporters of the government, voted on Thursday to delay making a decision on whether it will amend the constitution.
The decision angered protesters and opposition parliamentarians, who accused parliament of trying to buy time.
Protesters seek changes to a constitution they say was drafted to ensure Prayuth, a former junta leader, kept power after an election last year. They also want his departure. Prayuth says the election was fair.
The protests are the biggest challenge to the military and palace-dominated establishment since Prayuth took power in a 2014 coup.
The biggest protest drew tens of thousands of people at the weekend. They cheered calls for reforms to the monarchy, which were first aired in August, breaking a longstanding taboo on not criticising an institution that the constitution says must be held “in a position of revered worship”.
Some protesters say the constitution also gives too much power to the king, who paid a rare visit to Thailand on Thursday for ceremonies honouring his grandfather, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej.
The king has spent most of his time in Europe since taking the throne nearly four years ago.
Hundreds of royalists marched to parliament on Wednesday to oppose calls from the anti-government protesters for changes to the constitution.
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