Thai authorities block Bangkok march on coup anniversary

Published May 22, 2018, 2:12 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By the Associated Press

BANGKOK — Police in the Thai capital blocked a march Tuesday by pro-democracy activists protesting four years of military rule and calling for elections this year.

Pro-democracy demonstrators gather near a cardboard of Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during the fourth anniversary of a coup in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. The demonstrators are calling for a general election this year. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Pro-democracy demonstrators gather near a cardboard of Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during the fourth anniversary of a coup in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. The demonstrators are calling for a general election this year. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

About 3,200 officers were deployed to prevent about 200 protesters from marching from a Bangkok university campus to Government House.

Faced with barricades, a tropical downpour and lines of police, the protesters dueled 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.”

Tempers briefly flared as protesters and police pushed at each other for a few minutes but there appeared to be no arrests.

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.

 
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