Thai protests
People take photos as pro-democracy protesters walk on the red carpet during a demonstration against the government and calling for reform of the monarchy in Bangkok on Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

In Photos: Thai Protesters Mock Royal Fashion Brand With 'People's Runway'

Critics allege taxpayer money is wasted on promoting designs of King Maha Vajiralongkorn's daughter abroad.
October 30, 2020, 8:35am

Dressed in provocative outfits and Halloween costumes, Thai pro-democracy protesters strutted down a red carpet "People's Runway" in a Bangkok business district as they increasingly challenge the rich and powerful royal family. 

Thursday night's catwalk took place the same day as fashion designer and Thai Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana unveiled her new winter collection in the capital.

In a satirical take on the princess' "French Flair Runway" show, protesters walked on Silom Road in their own collection of dresses while chanting pro-democracy slogans. Artwork and posters depicting the new movement lined the streets.

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A woman wearing a white ribbon bow on her head gives the three-finger salute associated with pro-democracy protesters during an open-air art exhibition in Silom in Bangkok on Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

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People give the three-finger "Hunger Games" salute associated with pro-democracy protesters during an open-air art exhibition in Silom in Bangkok on Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

They repeated bold calls to reform the country's monarchy, one of the wealthiest in the world and protected from criticism by royal defamation laws. They are also demanding a new constitution and the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who has refused to step down. 

But the challenges to the monarchy have been the most defiant in Thailand where insults to the king can be punished with up to 15 years in jail. The youth-led demonstrations have broken the silence and are openly discussing the role of the monarchy for the first time in modern Thai history.

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A person gives the three-finger salute associated with pro-democracy protesters during an open-air art exhibition in Silom in Bangkok on October 29, 2020. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

Since the movement erupted a few months ago, they have laid a pro-democracy plaque in front of the royal palace, and on Monday they marched en masse to the German embassy to demand a probe into Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn's residence there. 

Princess Sirivannavari is Vajiralongkorn's daughter and on Thursday protesters said taxpayer's money was wasted on the international promotion of her fashion brand, called Sirivannavari Bangkok.

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People take photos as pro-democracy protesters walk on the red carpet during a demonstration against the government and calling for reform of the monarchy in Bangkok on Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: Mladen ANTONOV / AFP

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People dress up in costumes during a demonstration in Silom in Bangkok on Oct. 29, 2020. Photo: Jack TAYLOR / AFP

Prayut, who was elected prime minister in flawed 2019 elections after seizing power in a 2014 coup, has so far avoided overseeing a large-scale crackdown on the protest movement but attempts at concessions, including lifting a ban on gatherings of five or more people, have failed.

Police have arrested dozens of activists and protest organizers in recent weeks, forcing the movement to adopt a more leaderless structure through social media and flash mob tactics.

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A woman lies on the ground in a street performance during a demonstration in Silom in Bangkok on October 29, 2020. Photo: Jack TAYLOR / AFP