BANGKOK (AP) — Pro-democracy protesters in Thailand's capital defied a ban on protests and staged a rare rally Saturday against the country's ruling military government.
More than 200 people marched peacefully to Bangkok's Democracy Monument, a symbolic location that has become a rallying point for protests in recent years. They carried anti-junta banners and shouted pro-democracy slogans as a ring of police kept watch over the event but did not break it up.
The demonstration started with a forum at Bangkok's Thammasat University that was allowed by the authorities, who then denied a request to stage a march outside of the campus.
The protesters, from a group calling itself the New Democracy Movement, called the event to mark the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 19, 2006, coup that unseated then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra — an event that many see as the start of Thailand's nearly decade-long political turmoil.
The protest also appeared designed at least in part to embarrass the current leader, army chief-turned-Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is scheduled to make an address this month at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
Prayuth, who as head of the army engineered the latest coup in May 2014, overthrew an elected government run by Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. He justified the coup as a way to restore peace after sometimes violent street protests and reconcile the politically divided country.
But critics at home and in the international community say the junta has made little effort toward reconciliation but has focused on clamping down on dissent and civil liberties and appears comfortable holding power.
After initially promising quick elections to restore democracy, Prayuth now says polls will not be held until at least 2017.