Thai junta gives ultimatum to anti-coup activists
By Richard Sargent ,AFP
May 26, 2014, 12:07 am TWN
BANGKOK -- Thailand's ruling junta warned protesters it would not tolerate any further rallies against its coup after tense standoffs Sunday between soldiers and angry crowds in the capital Bangkok.
Dozens of demonstrators faced off against lines of armed soldiers before and after more than one thousand protesters marched through the city, the largest show of dissent since the army seized power on Thursday following months of political turmoil.
The military has detained former premier Yingluck Shinawatra along with scores of ousted government leaders, political figures, critics and academics in a sweeping roundup since the coup, which has drawn sharp international criticism.
The army said demonstrators would be held for one or two days, but could be jailed for up to two years if they kept taking to the streets.
"We will give them a last chance today, but if they continue to rally we will use measures to deal with them," Lieutenant General Apirat Kongsompong told a press conference.
'I am not afraid of them'
Protests began outside a Bangkok shopping mall in the Chidlom area, where boisterous demonstrators brandished signs reading "Junta Out" and "Fuck Coup" and pushed armed troops.
Minor scuffles broke out and at least two protesters were taken away by the troops, one bleeding, according to AFP journalists.
Demonstrators then made their way across the city to the Victory Monument cheered by onlookers, defying a junta call to avoid protests and a martial law ban on gatherings of more than five people.
"I am not afraid of them because the more we are afraid of them, the more they will stamp on us," protester Kongjit Paennoy, 50, told AFP. "We want an election — to choose our own boss."
The junta on Saturday announced it had disbanded the Senate and placed all law-making authority in the hands of army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha.
Civil liberties have been curbed, media restrictions imposed and most of the constitution abrogated.