BANGKOK – Student activists have defied the military’s ban on political gatherings of more than five people by continuing to protest the military coup in Bangkok today.
The protests were organised by Thammasat University student activists who call themselves the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD). Students from other universities and members of the public also joined the demonstration as well.
At 11 a.m. protesters began marching from Thammasat University's Tha Prachan campus down Ratchadamnoen Avenue toward the Grand Palace, passing the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Supreme Court on the way.
Some placards held by the protesters read, "Let us find the pigeon [symbol of democracy]," "We are coup generation," "Bring me back my damn votes,” and "Anti-Coup."
Since seizing power in coup d'etat yesterday, the military junta led by army commander-in-chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has banned gatherings of more than five people and warned against any public dissent.
Security forces kept watch on the demonstrators as they marched, but did not interfere until the group tried to enter the 14 October Uprising Memorial dedicated to the 1973 student protests that toppled a military dictatorship.
The soldiers tried to prevent demonstrators from entering the memorial site. But while some activists were arguing with the soldiers, one motorcycle taxi driver took a placard and sat down on the road in protest, prompting the rest of the group to follow suit.
Large crowds of on lookers, Thai and foreign, started to gather around the protesters, forcing the soldiers to retreat and allow the demonstrators into memorial site. Once inside, the demonstrators gave speeches condemning the military coup and sang pro-democracy songs before marching back to Thammasat University at around 1 pm.
Many vendors and motorcycle taxi drivers applauded the activists as they marched along Ratchadamnoen Avenue, while others who disagreed with the students approached the group and argued with the activists. No violence was reported.
Sirawit Serithiwat, a member of LLTD, said that the demonstration was meant to show that many students and citizens are opposed to the military coup – the 12th in Thailand's political history.
"I think everyone learned the lesson from the 2006 coup that coups don't solve any problems. In fact, it has made problems worse to this day," Mr. Sirawit said. "The soldiers did not only insult themselves by launching this coup. They also insult the people, because they chose to seize power instead of letting politics solve the problem."
"Democracy should come from the people, not from gun barrels," Mr. Sirawit added.
The activists also called on the administration of Thammasat University to publicly oppose the coup and urge the military to return power to the people without delay.
The protest occurred amid the intensifying effort by the coupmakers to crackdown on media and political freedom. Dozens of activists have been detained and media sites blacked-out in the first 24 hours of the military takeover.
Another anti-coup protest is also underway at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre in downtown Bangkok.
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