Asia

Thai pro-democracy rally attracts thousands as discontent swells

PATHUM THANI, Thailand: Thousands of people from all walks of Thai society came out in force Monday (Aug 10) to an anti-government protest, the largest ever show of dissent targeting premier Prayut Chan-o-cha's administration after weeks of rallies.

Waving rainbow flags, acerbic signs and posters of missing pro-democracy activists, the demonstrators descended in waves to Thammasat University in the outer edges of Bangkok as the sun set.

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The robust attendance comes after weeks of near-daily student-led protests denouncing Prayut's military-aligned administration.

READ: Testing royal taboos: Inside Thailand's new youth protests

Over the weekend, two activists were arrested under charges of sedition – and then released on bail – for their alleged role in a massive Jul 18 rally.

Organisers on Monday reiterated demands for a rewrite to a 2017 constitution, the parliament's dissolution, and called for the government to "stop threatening the people".

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The protest drew a diverse crowd from the LGBTQI community, young high schoolers and elderly pro-democracy supporters.

"Us seniors must support the students," said a 70-year-old woman who declined to be named. "We must fight for our sons, daughters, nephews and nieces."

The kingdom has long been locked in a cycle of violent street protests and coups by a putsch-happy army.

Demonstrators regard former army chief Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, as a remnant of Thailand's military government legacy as his premiership was ushered in under a military-scripted charter in last year's poll.

The pandemic has seized up Thailand's economy, leaving millions jobless and angry at the inequalities of a society perceived to favour the kingdom's elite establishment.

"No more fake democracy," read a sign at the demonstration, which drew around 4,000 by nightfall, according to an AFP estimate.

"This is the right time to send our voices to the government to let them know that we've had enough," said one university student, declining to be named.

Prayut has vowed to hold public forums with young people.

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