Protesters mark second anniversary of Thai army coup

Anti-junta demonstrators marching against military rule at Bangkok's Democracy Monument yesterday on the second anniversary of Thailand's military coup. A poll has found that 43 per cent of Thais felt no happier than before the coup, and 18 per cent
Anti-junta demonstrators marching against military rule at Bangkok's Democracy Monument yesterday on the second anniversary of Thailand's military coup. A poll has found that 43 per cent of Thais felt no happier than before the coup, and 18 per cent said they were less happy now.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BANGKOK • Hundreds of protesters yesterday marked the second anniversary of Thailand's latest coup with song, dance, speeches and pro-democracy banners, in the largest show of dissent since the military toppled an elected government.

Under the watch of dozens of police officers, activists gathered peacefully at Bangkok's Democracy Monument as discontent with the junta resurfaces after two years of relative quiet enforced by the army.

Since its May 22, 2014, power grab, the military has banned all political protests and ramped up prosecutions under draconian sedition and royal defamation laws. But unhappiness with the coup-makers has mounted.

"Today is another year we are standing here to make our voices heard louder to the people that administer this country and who we do not accept," student leader Rangsiman Rome said.

But with the military firmly in control, there is no immediate sense of a return to the mass demonstrations of the last decade.

Earlier, Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, whose government was ousted by the military's 12th successful putsch since 1932, said the country was suffering under army rule.

"Today is the second anniversary of the coup d'etat that removed my government from office," she said in a Facebook post yesterday. "It was the day that the people's rights and freedom were taken away."

Ms Yingluck was Thailand's first female prime minister and the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, who was also toppled in a 2006 coup backed by the royalist establishment.

Former army chief and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, who said the coup was necessary to end more than a decade of political chaos and protests, has pledged to return happiness to Thais, but a poll published yesterday found that most felt no happier than before the coup.

Some 43 per cent of respondents felt no happier and 18 per cent said they were less happy because of economic hardships, according to the poll by the National Institute of Development Administration. Around 38 per cent said they were happier.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2016, with the headline 'Protesters mark second anniversary of Thai army coup'. Print Edition | Subscribe