Thai protesters target would-be coup makers as rumours swirl

Pro-democracy protesters hold up the three-finger salute during an anti-government rally in Bangkok, on Nov 27, 2020. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (REUTERS) - Thousands of Thai anti-government protesters called for an end to coups in the South-east Asian country on Friday (Nov 27) as months of street protests fuel rumours of another military takeover.

The protesters demand the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader who seized power in the last coup in 2014, but say they do not want him replaced by another general.

Organisers called Friday's protest "Rehearsal to Oppose a Coup".

Mr Prayut's putsch was the 13th successful coup since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.

"The 14th coup will not happen because the people will come out and resist," one of the protest leaders, Mr Panupong "Mike Rayong" Jadnok, told the crowd.

Some protesters burned pictures of Mr Prayut.

He stayed on as prime minister after an election last year and protesters say the ballot was organised to keep him in power with a Constitution drawn up by his former government that gave Parliament's entire Upper House to junta appointees.

Mr Prayut says the vote was fair.

"I'm only 18 but have seen two coups already. That's not right," said Tan, a high school student at the protest who gave only one name. "We don't want history to repeat itself."

Both Mr Prayut and Thailand's army chief, General Narongpan Jittkaewtae, this week dismissed the possibility that another coup was imminent - but that has only increased speculation that one could be on the cards.

"The government has no intention of using martial law or talk about a coup," said government spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.

Protesters also accuse the monarchy of enabling decades of military domination and have demanded curbs to the powers of King Maha Vajiralongkorn - including his power to approve any future coups.

The Royal Palace has made no comments on the protesters although the King said recently that they were loved "all the same".

At least seven of the most prominent protest leaders face charges of insulting the monarchy, which could carry jail terms of up to 15 years, for comments they have made at different protests.

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