May 22, 2015 – Small groups of anti-junta activists held protests today, marking one year since Thailand’s generals seized power from the elected government, but widespread dissent is unlikely in a country still locked down by the military.
One group of die-hard campaigners who have previously defied the military’s ban on political protests said they planned to march to a court in Bangkok to file treason charges against junta chief Prayuth Chan-Ocha.
Student activists who have previously specialized in creative “flash mob” acts of dissent have also said they will hold protests in downtown Bangkok on Friday evening.
Their efforts have included public readings of George Orwell’s anti-authoritarian novel “1984” and flashing the three-fingered salute from the Hunger Games films which are set in a dystopian dictatorship.
Thailand’s military took over on 22 May 2014 after months of protests by anti-government supporters paralyzed the elected administration of Yingluck Shinawatra.
Two weeks before the military coup and the imposition of martial law, Yingluck had been forced out of office by a court ruling.
Her supporters say the coup was the latest assault by the royalist Bangkok-centric elite on the kingdom’s burgeoning democratic force, in particular from the culturally distinct northeast, which voted in droves for Shinawatra parties.
Protests have been smothered, dissenters arrested and anti-coup radio and television stations shut in the past year.
The junta says its power grab restored order after months of sometimes violent protests against Yingluck.
It also says it is rebooting the kingdom’s economy, although economic growth last year was just 0.7 percent, the weakest in three years, and it is rewriting the country’s constitution to end Thailand’s deep political divisions and expunge corruption.
But small pockets of dissent remain.
In a Facebook post early Friday Resistant Citizen, an anti-junta group, called on supporters to gather at a Bangkok subway station and begin marching on the Criminal Court at 3 pm.
They published a copy of the complaint they planned to file accusing the junta of carrying out an “unconstitutional overthrow of rule” of a democratically elected government.
“This constitutes treason, as stipulated in Article 113 of the Criminal Code,” the post added.
Previous protests by their group, which comprises just a handful of activists including one man whose son was killed by the military in a 2010 protest crackdown, have resulted in swift arrests soon after they have gathered.
The coup anniversary has so far been met with public silence by the ‘Red Shirt’ movement loyal to Yingluck and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was also ousted in a coup in 2006 and now lives in self-exile.
“We are not planning anything,” Red Shirt spokesman Thanawut Wichaidit said when asked if the group would mark the coup.
The usually busy Facebook page of Red Shirt chairman Jatuporn Prompan, whose daily TV program was recently taken off air, also made no mention of the coup.
Thaksin has previously called on his Red Shirt supporters to refrain from protesting and remain patient.