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Pro-democracy protesters defy Thai junta with rare rally

Published 20/09/2015

Pro-democracy protesters gather at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok (AP)
Pro-democracy protesters gather at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok (AP)

More than 200 pro-democracy activists defied Thailand's junta and staged a rare protest in the capital Bangkok that marked the anniversary of a coup that pushed the nation into nearly 10 years of turmoil.

The activists 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 but did not break up the rally.

The demonstration started with a forum at Bangkok's Thammasat University that was allowed by authorities, but they denied a request for a march outside of the campus.

The protesters, from the New Democracy Movement, called the rally to mark the anniversary of the September 19, 2006, coup that unseated then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on allegations of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for the king.

The coup plunged Thailand into a cycle of sometimes violent street protests as his supporters and opponents struggled for power.

Last year, the army overthrew an elected government run by Mr Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, on the pretext of restoring order and reconciling the politically divided country.

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 UN General Assembly in New York.

Critics at home and abroad say the junta has made little effort toward reconciliation, and has focused on clamping down on dissent and civil liberties.

After initially promising quick elections to restore democracy, Mr Prayuth now says polls will not be held until at least 2017.

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