BANGKOK – Anti-coup demonstrations continued to gather momentum in Bangkok on Sunday, with hundreds converging outside a McDonald’s restaurant to denounce the military’s power grab last week.
Soldiers holding riot shields held the line in front of the fast-food restaurant and others lurked above on the stairs of the mass transit Skytrain, ready for action.
The boisterous crowd holding signs denouncing the putsch roared “aok bai, aok bai” – Thai for “go away” – at the stern-looking soldiers, who pushed back those brazen enough to approach.
“We’re here to let the military know what they did is wrong, the coup was illegal,” Nongnuch Karunyalert, 47, told Al Jazeera. She wore a black shirt on top of a red one, saying it was too dangerous now to wear the colour that represents the political followers of ousted prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra.
“I was warned this week not to wear red any more, as the soldiers are targeting those who do. Four years ago these soldiers killed about 90 of our people. These guys are dangerous,” Nongnuch said, referring to the 2010 crackdown on Red Shirts who had occupied Lumpini Park in central Bangkok for months after another of their governments was removed from power.
A motorcycle taxi driver, who asked to be identified only as Boy, said anger was growing among supporters of the latest government to fall. “We have to boycott what the army has done here,” he said. “They need to set up a government quickly.”
Independent analyst Benjamin Zawacki told Al Jazeera he was not surprised that the pro-government side had taken to the streets, adding it likely had prepared a response even before martial law was declared last Tuesday. “I am actually surprised there weren’t more pre-emptive protests beforehand,” he said.
More than 1,000 protesters also converged on Democracy Monument on Sunday, many walking many kilometres from the McDonald’s demonstration site and collecting others along the way.
“I think the army coup is against democracy and people want an election in a modern democratic Thailand,” said Sirawith Seritinat, 22, a student at Thammasat University in Bangkok. “I agree with some ideas from the Red Shirts, but I do not support them. However, we need a government elected by the people, and not appointed.”
It remains unclear when, or if, the military plans to install a new government and call elections. Thaksin and his allies have won every poll since 2000, and based on the current political system would likely do so again because of vast voter support in the country’s populous north and northeast.
Opponents of the Red Shirts and their politicians, mostly the urban middle class and elite based in Bangkok, have demanded that the political system be reformed before any new election is called.
“We seek for a kind understanding of the situation in our country. One template cannot be applied to every situation,” army deputy spokesman Werachon Sukhonpatipak told Al Jazeera. Read More Click Here