Will New Pro-Democracy Rallies Draw More Than Usual Suspects?

Protesters rally Sunday against the possible delay of the election slated for February.
Protesters rally Sunday against the possible delay of the election slated for February.

BANGKOK — Demonstrators said Tuesday they hope more people attend rallies to pressure the military regime into holding elections as promised next month.

Arnon Nampa, a 34-year-old leader of the Democracy Restoration Group, said hours before a protest planned for 5pm this afternoon that he hopes at least 1,000 people show up.

“We disagree with postponing elections,” he said, adding that a bigger rally is needed. “We have to try.”

Read: Govt Quietly Halts Election Preparations Nationwide

Arnon estimated that only 200 people showed up Sunday to protest at the Victory Monument. The group will meet at 5pm today on the skywalk over Ratchaprasong Intersection and stick around until 8pm, he said.

The move came after the government acknowledged Tuesday that officials have been ordered to halt election preparations nationwide.

Describing the development as “not a big deal,” Gen. Anupong Paochinda, who serves as interior minister, confirmed the veracity of an internal document leaked onto social media.

Last week, it was announced that the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn would take place in the first week of week of May, around the end of the window of time that a poll must be held, according to the law.

That announcement has prompted some to call for putting off or canceling elections entirely.

The last major spasm of street protests was this past May for the fourth anniversary of the coup. Organizers faulted low turnout for their easy containment and dispersal by security forces.

This afternoon is a test for the pro-democracy camp’s viability. Though the military government’s popularity appears to be in decline, frustration with its rule may not translate into larger protests.

Arnon, who is also a human rights lawyer, said he believes an attempt to defer elections is more about the junta wanting to stay as long as possible in power, however.

While the ban on political gatherings has been lifted, the junta and its self-styled National Council for Peace and Order, which staged the 2014 coup, still hold the power to detain people without charge for seven days for “attitude adjustment.”

Anurak Jeantawanich, a Redshirt known to activists as “Ford Red Path,” said he was questioned by plainclothes police Tuesday about how he funded his political activities. Anurak wrote online Tuesday that the money came from selling political T-shirts.

Nuttaa Mahattana, another leader of the group, said today that she expects about 300 demonstrators to show up at the intersection, but added that she is bad at estimating.

Nuttaa called on people earlier today via Facebook to gather and demonstrate wherever it’s convenient, not just at Ratchaprasong Intersection or in Bangkok.

“People who want elections nationwide should spread out and show their power …,” she wrote.