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Activists threaten march to Government House

PRO-ELECTION activists yesterday threatened to march to Government House on the fourth anniversary of the 2014 coup later this month if the ruling junta failed to respond to their call for an election in November.

The group stood firm on its stance that the next election must be held this year, as promised earlier by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, its leader Rangsiman Rome said during a demonstration at Thammasat University’s Tha Prachan campus. Before the election, the junta – the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – must change its role as an administering government to that of a caretaker only to facilitate the holding of an election, the activist said. And lastly, the Army should stop supporting the NCPO’s political rule, he added.

The protest yesterday was the sixth in a series against the coup-installed regime, calling for a general election which was last held in the country in 2011. In February 2014, the Pheu Thai-led government had called an election that was aborted by anti-government rallies. The current pro-election protest began in late January following the release of the organic law governing the election of MPs. The junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly laid out in the law that its enforcement be put off by three months after promulgation, naturally delaying the election by the same amount of time. The move contradicted a statement by Prayut, who is also the NCPO leader, late last year that the next election would be held in November. The activities to demand an election this year are expected to be intense this month, as May 22 marks the fourth anniversary of the coup. Yesterday, more than 400 people took part in the peaceful demonstration, packing the venue – the Pridi Banomyong Park – inside the TU campus. Some 600 security officers reportedly were deployed to observe and keep a record of the activity. Rangsiman said yesterday that Prayut had repeatedly failed to keep his promises about holding the election. The protesters had no choice but to come out and voice their demands because there was no guarantee that the election would take place in February next year as promised by the government, he said. Despite the continuous attempt by the group to apply pressure on the junta, political critic and activist Ekachai Chainuvati admitted it was difficult for the demonstration to be successful. “We cannot expect hundreds of thousands or millions of people to come out on May 22 this year, considering the strict law enforcement on public assembly through use of the junta order,” he said. “So, it would not be as successful as the People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s movement before the coup and not as violent as the Black May riots of 1992.” He predicted a scenario of the activists getting arrested for the planned demonstration.

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