Thai police warned democracy activists today that they will be arrested if they gather to mark the upcoming anniversary of the revolution that ended absolute monarchy, a historical moment that has taken on renewed significance. The bloodless revolution on June 24, 1932 was a turning point for modern Thailand, marking the moment the king's absolute powers were replaced with a constitutional monarchy. In recent years small groups of democracy activists have gathered each anniversary to lay flowers on a small bronze plaque marking the spot where the king was informed his absolute powers were no more. The 30-inch plaque had rested in the floor of Bangkok's Royal Plaza for decades. But in April, six months after the new king Maha Vajiralongkorn took the throne, it went missing, fuelling fears that officials were trying to whitewash history. Police confirmed they would not tolerate any attempt to gather at spot on this year's anniversary on Saturday week. "This year we will not allow activists to come to lay flowers at the Royal Plaza because this is palace ground and it violates the NCPO (junta) order banning gatherings for political purposes," Major General Phanurat Lukboon, deputy Metropolitan Police commissioner, told AFP. Thailand has been run by an ultra-royalist junta since former army chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha seized power in 2014. In the years before the coup the memorial became a touchpaper for Thailand's current political divide between democrats and monarchical conservatives -- some of whom had called for the plaque to be ripped up. Official denials over the plaque's whereabouts have stretched credulity given it lay in a palace-owned square that is heavily policed. It was also replaced by a new plaque calling on Thais to be loyal to Buddhism, the state, family and the monarchy -- core values of conservatives and ultra-royalists. Thailand's royal family are hugely wealthy and influential but detailed discussion of their role is all but impossible inside the kingdom. Criticism of the royals is strictly banned under the country's draconian lese majeste law.
Prosecutions have skyrocketed since the 2014 coup with record breaking decades- long sentences handed down. Media must heavily self-censor when reporting on Thailand's royals as a result. Vajiralongkorn succeeded his father Bhumibol Adulyadej who died in October after seven decades on the throne. The new 64-year-old monarch spends much of his time overseas has yet to attain his father's widespread popularity.