BANGKOK – The Royal Thai Police in Bangkok were ordered by Junta Government Officials to block a march Tuesday by pro-democracy activists protesting four years of military rule and calling for elections this year.
About 3,200 officers were deployed to prevent about 200 protesters from marching from a Bangkok university campus to Government House.
Faced with barricades and lines of police, the protesters duelled with authorities by loudspeaker, trying to outshout police warnings that the demonstration would tarnish Thailand’s image, scare tourists and cause congestion.
Activist Seriwith Seritiwat said the protesters would “never back down”.
Tuesday is the fourth anniversary of a bloodless coup in 2014 that toppled Thailand’s elected government.
The junta vowed reform and reconciliation for a politically divided Thailand but its rule has been tarnished by corruption scandals and repeated postponement of promised elections.
The protesters, mainly middle-aged and elderly and led by a core of student activists, have been holding regular rallies for the last few months, calling for the junta to stand down and hold elections.
Political gatherings of five or more people are banned by the military government. Its most recent promise of elections is for February next year.
Analysts say junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who staged the coup and is now prime minister, is maneuvering to keep a tight grip on power even if elections are held.
Prime Minister General Prayut said on Tuesday that the election could not happen sooner than early next year and it was delayed for 3-4 months due to “legal issues”.
General Prayut also said demonstrations were permitted within the scope of the law, and that those who breached the law would face tough legal action.
“Endless demonstrations will slow the pace of the growing economy. Security and the safety of people and property are the highest priority. Different thoughts are acceptable as long as the law is obeyed. Remember my words,” Gen Prayut said.
Source: AP, Reuters