Pathum Thani-When university student Rung calmly read out 10 demands to reform Thailand’s monarchy before thousands of protesters at a pro-democracy rally this month, she defied the country’s biggest political taboo.

Backed by an arch-royalist military and shielded by draconian royal defamation laws, the super-rich monarchy wields enormous influence in nearly every sphere of Thai society. But 21-year-old Rung -- real name Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul -- said the August 10 protest at Thammasat University outside Bangkok was “the right time” to ask for change, even though she risked arrest.

“When I left the stage, I felt like I had expanded the boundaries... raised the limits on how people can talk about the monarchy,” the bespectacled sociology and anthropology student told AFP. That demonstration was one of many near-daily rallies -- some drawing thousands -- across Thailand as the democracy movement gathered steam, led by university students like her. The demands Rung announced that day included more transparency for the royal family’s fortune and the abolition of the royal defamation law, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in jail per charge.

“I knew that after I read out the 10 demands, my life would change forever,” the soft-spoken activist said as she played with her kitten. “I still had to do it.”