February 17, 2018 / 5:58 AM / 7 months ago

Thai activists plan more protests ahead of coup anniversary in May

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A group of pro-democracy activists in Thailand said on Saturday that it plans to hold more public protests, despite threat of arrests, to demand the military government not to delay a general election scheduled for November this year.

The junta has promised and postponed elections several times since it came to power following a coup in 2014, with the latest date being set for November.

But a change to the election law by the military-appointed legislature last month means that the election will likely be pushed back to early 2019. That sparked a series of small anti-junta, pro-election protests that is gaining momentum in recent weeks with gathering taking place in Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north, and Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand.

Activists from the Democracy Restoration Group (DRG) says they now want to hold a series of pro-election demonstrations starting this Sunday in northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, followed by a protest in Bangkok next Saturday.

The activists also announced plans to hold further protests on March 10 and 24 as well as on every Saturday in May, leading to a large gathering that will take place over several days, from May 19-22, marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup.

“We will make May the month for all Thais to think about election and think about how our country should move forward,” Rangsiman Rome, a pro-democracy activist, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree told Reuters that the government is not concerned by the planned protests and will rely on the police to maintain peace and order.

“If the protest disturbs others than it will be up to the police to respond according to the law,” Winthai said.

Earlier this week, the junta lodged a lawsuit against seven DRG activists for inciting unrest and 43 protesters for illegal gathering after last Saturday pro-election protest by hundreds of people at Democracy Monument in Bangkok.

Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um and Aukkarapon Niyomyat; Editing by Kim Coghill

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