By Orathai Sriring
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Two years to the day that Thailand's army toppled the remnants of her government, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called on the junta to accelerate a return to democracy, and a poll showed Thais were no happier than before the coup.
In 2014, the military staged their 12th successful coup since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, and khaki army uniforms replaced the yellow and red shirts of the protesters that had paralysed Bangkok for months.
"It was the day that the people's rights and freedom were taken away," Yingluck said in a Facebook post.
"I can only hope that the NCPO (junta) remembers what they promised to the people... I have growing concerns because today, people are suffering from economic hardship, poverty and critical social issues including increasing drug use."
A referendum on a junta-backed draft constitution is due on Aug. 7, and the government has promised an election in 2017.
Yingluck is on trial in the Supreme Court on corruption charges stemming from a state rice subsidy scheme and faces up to a decade in jail if found guilty.
A leader to replace her has yet to emerge, leaving the opposition struggling to mount a campaign for a no vote to a constitution they say would enshrine military power for years.
Thailand's divisive politics have gone underground due to a junta ban on political activity. The army has moved quickly to snuff out recent small anti-junta an anti-constitution protests in Bangkok.
Despite the ban, around 300 students and people critical of the junta marched from Thammasat University to the Democracy Monument in Bangkok on Sunday to mark the coup anniversary, asking the junta to return democracy to the people.
Many of them wore t-shirts saying "Vote NO! to a future that can't be chosen."
Some of them were challenged by junta supporters. The march later dispersed.
Critics say Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's national reconciliation process has made divisions worse by excluding supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin.
"I would like to ask them (the junta) whether the reconciliation process has been inclusive and if it's going in the right direction or not," Yingluck said.
Prayuth pledged to return happiness to Thai people, but a poll published on Sunday found that most felt no happier than before the coup.
Some 43 percent of respondents felt no happier and 18 percent said they were less happy because of economic hardships, according to the poll by the National Institute of Development Administration. Around 38 percent said they were happier.
(Reporting by Orathai Sriring, Jutarat Skulpichetrat and Satawasin Staporncharnchai; Editing by Simon Webb and Ros Russell)