Thousands of protesters have gathered in Thailand’s capital to call for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, promising to keep up pressure until he leaves office.
Thursday’s demonstration at the Asoke intersection in central Bangkok was one of the biggest such gatherings this year despite a warning from the police earlier in the day that protests were banned due to coronavirus restrictions.
Protests against Prayuth have gained momentum since late June as groups who sought his removal last year return with broader support from people angered by a worsening coronavirus situation.
The demonstrators blame Prayuth for his handling of the pandemic, particularly his failure to secure timely and adequate supplies of vaccines. Just 13 percent of Thailand’s population of more than 66 million people has been fully vaccinated.
The country has recorded more than 1.2 million infections and 12,103 deaths since the pandemic started last year, with most of the cases and deaths occurring since April this year.
Anti-government protest at Asoke Intersection at 6.43pm Thursday. #Thailand #WhatsHappeningInThailand #COVID19 #ม็อบ2กันยา #อภิปรายไม่ไว้วางใจ #อภิปรายไม่ไว้วางใจรัฐบาล #ประยุทธ์ #ป pic.twitter.com/2kcdmx3Ojv
— Pravit Rojanaphruk (@PravitR) September 2, 2021
Separately, Prayuth is facing a grilling in Thailand’s parliament in a censure debate that started earlier this week. The opposition accuses the prime minister and five other cabinet ministers of corruption, economic mismanagement and bungling the coronavirus response.
Prayuth and his ministers have rejected the accusations and defended their performance to the parliament.
While the governing coalition is expected to survive the no-confidence vote scheduled for Saturday, due to their parliamentary majority, protesters say they will continue taking to the streets.
“The members of parliament have to choose between the people and Prayuth who has failed, causing losses and deaths of more than 10,000 people,” said Nattawut Saikua, one of the main organisers of the protest.
“If Prayuth passes the no-confidence vote and remains prime minister we will continue to drive him out,” he added.
While the demonstration at Asoke was peaceful, a smaller group of anti-government protesters set off firecrackers and burned car tyres near the prime minister’s residence in another part of the city.
Former army chief Prayuth first came to power in 2014 when he led a coup against the elected civilian government. A military-drafted constitution that allowed a military-appointed Senate to vote for the prime minister helped keep him in office after polls were finally held two years ago, an election many saw as heavily rigged in his favour.