BANGKOK (Reuters) – Holding up messages on their tablets and waving their cellphone torches, hundreds of young protesters rallied on Thursday to demand the Thai the government resign and dissolve parliament, defying a coronavirus ban on gatherings.
A network of student groups called “Free Youth” joined forces on the outskirts of Bangkok, voicing a raft of complaints against the year-old civilian government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief who ousted an elected government six years ago.
“We are here to call for a new constitution. Because the current constitution doesn’t support our rights and freedom. It was inherited from the military coup in 2014,” student protester Thanachai Aurlucha, 25, said.
A student who identified herself with the nickname Fufu, 22, said the government had failed to boost the economy. “We’re about to graduate but we don’t know how we will make a living. If I don’t come out today, there will be no future.”
A protester calling himself Ron, 39, said: “I want to call for true democracy in Thailand.” Both declined to give their real names.
Despite officers warning the rally was unlawful for breaking the coronavirus ban, there was no visible police presence near the night-time gathering in which many held three fingers in the air in what has become a symbol of the protests.
Similar protests took place in four other provinces — Ayutthaya, Khon Kaen, Sakon Nakhon and Pattani. Youths are also planning gatherings in Bangkok and other provinces at the weekend.
The rallies followed a protest in Bangkok on Saturday of about 2,500 people, in one of the biggest street demonstrations since the 2014 coup that ousted the last elected administration.
Public opposition to Prayuth has been growing in recent months. Since last year’s election, a court has dissolved the second-largest opposition party, giving his ruling coalition a firmer grip on parliament.
Thailand is to extend a state of emergency until the end of August but the National Security Council said the decree would be used only to contain virus outbreaks and not rallies. So far, there have been no arrests at the protests.
The government has not publicly addressed the protesters’ grievances.
(Writing by Orathai Sriring; Editing by Alison Williams)