Thai police block pro-democracy march on coup anniversary

Anti-government protesters demanding elections by November prevented from marching to Government House.

    Thai anti-government protesters demanding general elections by November were blocked by police on the fourth anniversary of the military coup in the country.

    Some 3,000 police officers were deployed to prevent some 200 protesters, camping at Thammasat University in the capital, Bangkok, from marching to the Government House. The Government House and surrounding streets were declared a no-go zone.

    On May 22, 2014, a bloodless military coup toppled Thailand's elected government.

    The military government vowed reform and reconciliation for a politically divided Thailand but its rule has been tarnished by corruption scandals and repeated postponement of promised elections.

    Ban on political activities

    Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Bangkok, said the police warned the protesters that they can be arrested and convicted of violating the military government's ban on political activities, which says crowd of five people or more are outlawed.

    "Initially the protesters camped out overnight in Thammasat University and they had the permission to do that, but on Tuesday morning their permission was revoked," he said.

    "It's a small protest at the moment, but it has probably been the most significant sign of resistance of protest movement against the military."

    A handful of protesters pushed up against police for several minutes to try to achieve their objective to march to the Government House before they were pushed back by the police forces.

    One of the protest organisers, Sirawith Seritiwat, also known as Ja New, said protesters planned to march peacefully.

    "I hope they will let us walk out. We have no intention to prolong today's activities. I think they will try to stop us ... we will not use violence," Sirawith told Reuters news agency.

    The government has delayed the general election repeatedly, which was first set for 2015, with the latest date now February 2019.

    Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reiterated on Tuesday that a general election will take place in "early 2019 and no sooner".

    Thailand has been rocked by pro- and anti-government street protests for more than a decade, some of them deadly.

    The military says it carried out the 2014 coup to end the cycle of violence.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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