On the fourth anniversary of the military coup, May 22, hundreds of protesters gathered at Thammasat University in Bangkok and marched towards the Government House, demanding an end to martial law and restoration of democracy in the country. The protests which was attended by more than 500 people, despite threats and intimidation by police, also called for an election by the end of 2018. The martial law prohibits political activities in the country, and the law has been used by the ruling military junta to suppress the democracy movement.
It was on May 22, 2014 that the Thailand’s military took over the country through a military coup, which according to military was to ‘establish political stability’. Since then, the military junta has repealed the 2007 constitution (except the second chapter which concerns the king) and Thailand has been under the rule of a military organization called the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). The regime continues to extend the date of elections in the country, casting doubts over its intention to restore democracy in the country.
The military government and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha have been continuously postponing the election that was originally supposed to be held in 2015. In a recent statement, Chan-ocha said that the election would be held in “early 2019 and no sooner”.
One of the leaders of the people movement for democracy, Rangsima Rome of the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) speaking to the The Dawn Newsbefore the protests said that “for us, the elections are just the beginning. Our actual goal is the restoration of democracy.”
“We don’t just want elections. Elections cannot be the goal. Even if we have elections forever, we won’t have a good system because the constitution is under the military regime,” added Rome.
Rome was among number of protesters who were arrested by the Royal Thai Police, as police stopped the march from proceeding towards the Government House. More than 3000 police personales launched a crackdown on the protests, as “We Want Election” movement read a statement calling for the ruling the NCPO to repeal restrictions on the fundamental freedoms and called for the elections to be conducted. Many other leaders were prevented by the police from even reaching the gathering. According to the informationavailable, the other members of the pro democracy movement, who were arrested were Nuttaa Mahattana, Chonthicha Jangrew, Anon Numpa, Sirawith Seritiwat, Piyarat Chongthep, Ekachai Hongkangwan, Chokchai Paiboonratchata, Kiri Khanthong, Putthaising Pimchan, Roj Trong-ngarmrak, Viset Sangkhavisit, Pattarapol Jankot, and Prasong Wangwan.
The Thailand authorities, in an attempt to suppress the movement has charged the arrested members with several offences including sedition, being part of a gathering of more than nine persons that have either caused or threatened to use violence, disobeying orders to disperse by the authorities, and for obstructing traffic.
The arrested members were released on bail, but the charges have not been dropped.