Thousands rally in Thai capital against government

Pro-democracy protesters hold up the three-finger salute as they walk from Thammasat University during an anti-government rally in Bangkok on September 19, 2020. LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA / AFP

Thousands of protesters in Thailand's capital demonstrated against the government of former coup leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Saturday, with many also demanding reforms to the powerful monarchy.

Protests have been building since mid-July to call for the removal of the government, a new constitution and elections.

They have also broken a long-standing taboo by criticising the monarchy of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

Police said at least 5,000 people had gathered at the campus of Thammasat University, long seen as a hotbed of opposition to the military and royalist establishment, and scene of a massacre of protesters in 1976.

Under light rain, protesters spilled onto Sanam Luang, a public space opposite the Grand Palace where state ceremonies are traditionally held.

“Today the people will demand back their power,” Arnon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who has emerged as a leading figure in the protest movement, said on Twitter.

Sept. 19 is the anniversary of the coup against the populist then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006.

Among the protesters were many of his red shirt followers, veterans of clashes a decade ago with pro-establishment yellow shirts.

“I’m here to fight for the future of my children and grandchildren. I hope that by the time I die, they will become free,” said 68-year-old Tasawan Suebthai, a redshirt with amulets round her neck to ward off bullets.

So far the protests have been peaceful. The biggest to date drew more than 10,000 people last month, but organisers expect more this time.

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