Coup opponents continued to defy a military order banning public gatherings by holding small rallies yesterday to voice their anger at the putsch.
Their show of disapproval was in stark contrast to other groups of people who presented soldiers with flowers and food to express their support for the military’s attempt to end political conflict in the country.
Following a brief scuffle with soldiers at the Ratchaprasong intersection on Sunday, coup opponents returned to the Victory Monument yesterday afternoon to speak out against the coup-makers.
The protesters had to use the skywalk around the monument to stage their rally after discovering the monument was closed off by City Hall for repairs.
Several protests were also reported upcountry but were quickly broken up by soldiers.
In Uttaradit, a doctor and his wife staged a brief protest by placing an anti-coup placard on his surgery fence.
Soldiers standing nearby ordered the couple to stop protesting and removed the placard from the fence.
In Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district, the army ordered the closure of a community radio station after it urged people to protest against the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
The military junta yesterday ordered troops to watch out for anti-coup gatherings at department stores and other public places.
The public has been urged to join protests through social networking sites, while more groups have issued calls for the junta to ease controls on people’s freedom of expression and to quickly return power to the people.
A group of 77 academics calling themselves ”Scholar Citizens” yesterday demanded the release of students, scholars and others detained for staging peaceful rallies against the coup.
They called on the NCPO to stop ordering anti-coup opponents to report to the military and to respect differing opinions by lifting strict controls over the media and academic freedom.
The academics also demanded the military “return sovereign power to the people as soon as possible to avoid any violence and bloodshed.”
They said authoritarianism has never solved problems in any country, including Thailand, which has experienced many coups in the past.
The scholars’ calls were echoed by other civic groups and organisations such as the Young People for Social-Democracy Movement, Four Regions Slum Network, the NGO Coordinating Committee on Development and the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI).
“We are especially concerned about restrictions on academic freedom,” TDRI president Somkiat Tangkitvanich said following a TDRI meeting yesterday.
He was referring to the NCPO’s 14th and 18th announcements which prohibit media members from interviewing scholars on issues that may cause “conflict and confusion” and the broadcasting and publishing of news criticising the NCPO.
Mr Somkiat said he did not oppose the NCPO’s objective of national reform, but “it should be done in an atmosphere in which all sides are allowed to express their views equally and freely”.
First published: Bangkok Post, May 27, 2014