Thai army deploys against protesters

2014-06-01 09:33
An anti-coup protester is arrested by Thai police during a demonstration at a shopping mall in Bangkok . (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP)

An anti-coup protester is arrested by Thai police during a demonstration at a shopping mall in Bangkok . (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul, AFP)

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Bangkok — Hundreds of demonstrators shouting "Freedom!" and "Democracy!" gathered on Sunday near a major shopping mall in downtown Bangkok to denounce the country's 22 May coup despite a lockdown by soldiers of some of the city's major intersections.

The country's new military rulers had deployed thousands of troops and police officers to several key locations across the capital to prevent a series of expected rallies from gelling.

But protesters showed up at a site that lacked any mass army presence —an elevated walking beside the Terminal 21 shopping mall, chanting and holding signs saying "No Coup".

The mall's owners shut the nine-storey complex and ordered customers out as scores of police and helmeted soldiers with riot shields took positions nearby. Two army trucks, including a Humvee mounted with a machine-gun, parked on a street outside, but moved away after crowds booed them.

"I am here because I don't want a coup. I want elections and democracy," said a 66-year-old female protester who asked to be identified only as Ratchana because of concerns over being detained.

Daily protests

"This is the 21st century," she said. "There shouldn't be any coups, but they still keep happening ... because Thais are afraid" to speak out.

Earlier, the crowd surrounded two plainclothes police officers who tried to detain one of the protesters. But after several minutes of shouting, the protester was released.

The army overthrew the nation's elected government late last month, claiming it had to restore order after seven months of demonstrations that had triggered sporadic violence and left the civil administration virtually powerless.

Since the coup, pro-democracy protesters have come out on the streets nearly every day, marching through Bangkok and scuffling with soldiers. No injuries have been reported, but the junta has warned them repeatedly to stop and there are rising fears of violence if the military employs force.

On Sunday, authorities closed several subway and elevated train stations where protests might materialise, advising commuters that services had been suspended temporarily "for your safety due to a situation outside."

- AP
Read more on:    thailand
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