BANGKOK: Thai police declared Bangkok’s Government House and surrounding streets a no-go zone for Tuesday’s planned opposition march marking four years since a May 22, 2014, coup, warning protesters not to defy a junta ban on public gatherings.
Around 3,000 police were on standby ahead of the march, which is due to start at Bangkok’s Thammasat University and end at Government House in a bid to pressure the military government to hold a general election by November.
The junta, known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), has repeatedly postponed the election but now insists a vote will be held by February. The military took power in 2014 following months of street protests and political unrest.
Deputy national police chief Srivara Rangsibrahmanakul warned protesters that Government House and the surrounding area would be out of bounds.
“I’ve already ordered that … 50 meters around Government House will be controlled areas,” Srivara told reporters, adding that police expect around 1,000 protesters to gather on Tuesday.
He reminded protesters of a junta ban on public gatherings of more than five people.
“If you move, you have already violated the law. If you want to fight, you have to fight according to the law,” Srivara said.
The “We Want Voting Movement”, an alliance of anti-military groups, called on the junta to stop postponing the election date.
“Thailand cannot be a democratic country … if there is no political participation,” the group said in a statement.
Association of Southeast Asian Nations Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) urged the military government to “lift restrictions on fundamental rights” and hold an election.
Following the coup, the junta scrapped the constitution and wrote one that critics say is aimed at consolidating the army’s already sweeping powers.