Thousands of pro-government demonstrators participated in the “Run Against Dictatorship” on Sunday at a public park here to express their discontent with the Thai government.
Some of the protesters shouted slogans such as “Prayuth, get out!” or “Long live democracy!” while running the 2.6-km (1.6-mile) course amid a sprinkling of security forces. Many also gave a three-finger salute of resistance to authority.
Thailand’s government is headed by Prayuth, 65, after an election in March 2019 that the opposition described as having been manipulated to favour the leader’s pro-army party.
Unlike other demonstrations held in Thailand, the “Run Against Dictatorship” used one of the country’s most trending activities – collective running – as a way to send their message to the authorities, a strategy that drew a great deal of attention from the general public, which sought a more peaceful and creative way to make their voices heard than the often-bloody clashes between political opponents or with the security forces of the recent past.
The rally was joined by around 14,000 people, including Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of the opposition Anakot Mai (“Future Forward”) party who is also the current government’s most prominent critic.
The run followed a rally last month staged by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the 41-year-old leader of the progressive Future Forward Party, who has emerged as the most outspoken opponent of Thailand’s new civilian government.
On Friday, Thanathorn was charged with breaching a law on public assembly over the December rally, and Future Forward faces dissolution this month by the constitutional court.
The clashing views of the two camps aroused memories of protests that periodically roiled the Thai capital before culminating in coups in 2006 and 2014.
Thailand has been gripped by political tension for more than a decade, leading to two successful coups in the past 14 years.
The army takeovers came in the context of constant violent protests and clashes between the conservative faction (known as the Yellow Shirts) and the Red Shirts, backers of ousted prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra (in the office between 2001-06) and his sister Yingluck (2011-14).
Both members of the wealthy Shinawatra clan were deposed by the army and remain in exile.
(With inputs from agency)