May 19, 2018 / 2:16 PM / 3 months ago

Hundreds in Bangkok mark anniversary of army crackdown

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Hundreds of people gathered in Bangkok on Saturday to mark the anniversary of a deadly army crackdown on an anti-government protest in 2010 that killed 91 people and injured hundreds, as pressure builds on the ruling junta to hold a general election.

Protesters gather in front of a department store to mark the anniversary of a deadly army crackdown on an anti-government protest in 2010, in central Bangkok, Thailand May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um

The gathering took place just days before the fourth anniversary of a May 2014 coup that ousted a civilian government and as the junta faces a growing public perception crisis.

The military says the 2014 coup was necessary to restore order, but critics accuse it of holding on to power longer than necessary by repeatedly delaying the date of a general election which is now tentatively set for February 2019.

At the event in Bangkok on Saturday, around 200 members of the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) group, known as the “red shirts”, lit candles and laid flowers at a major intersection, where the weeks-long street demonstration came to a bloody end.

Activists on Saturday chanted: “People were killed here”.

No group or individual has been prosecuted for the crackdown and deaths.

Protesters gather in front of a department store to mark the anniversary of a deadly army crackdown on an anti-government protest in 2010, in central Bangkok, Thailand May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Panu Wongcha-um

“There is still no justice from what happened in 2010,” said Sombat Boonngamanong, a prominent red shirt activist.

Others spoke about the current, military administration.

“We still feel robbed because of the coup,” said a 49-year- old woman who only wanted to be identified at Noi.

“Our country is going backwards,” she said.

The 2010 protest stemmed from a long-running rivalry between supporters of populist former, ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the pro-military, conservative establishment.

Thaksin, a telecommunications tycoon turned prime minister, won huge support among the poor but the loathing of the royalist establishment, largely over accusations of corruption.

His sister, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, was ousted in the 2014 coup.

Saturday’s gathering took place amid police security and in violation of a junta ban on political gatherings of more than five people. The event ended peacefully.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um, Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Editing by William Maclean

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