Thai protesters demand resignation of PM Prayut on 15th coup anniversary
Hundreds of Thai protesters have taken to the streets of the capital Bangkok to mark the 15th anniversary of the 2006 military coup that overthrew former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, calling for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to step down.
On Sunday, the red-clad protesters rallied to protest against the government of Prayut, demanding his resignation as "the economy and politics are collapsing." They unloaded a massive cardboard model of a tank for their “cars against tanks” protest. Other protesters repeatedly honked car and motorbike horns to call on the premier to resign.
“Fifteen years have passed, we are still here to fight,” shouted Nattawut Saikuar, a politician long associated with Thaksin, to a sea of supporters waving “Kick out Prayut” flags.
“No matter how many coups there are, it cannot stop us... No matter how good capacity their tanks are, it cannot stop the fighting hearts of the people,” he added.
During the past 15 years, the Southeast Asian country witnessed two coups, both of which revolved around Shinawatra and his political network.
Back in 2014, Prayut, then-army chief, seized power from then-premier Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister. The coup came after months of street rallies in protest against the government’s amnesty bill that could have led to Thaksin's return. Since then, Prayut has been the premier of the country.
On September 9, 2006, Sonthi Boonyaratglin, then army chief, removed populist Thaksin from power through a military coup and ended street protest rallies triggered by a conflict of interest over the controversial sale of Shin Corp shares by Shinawatra siblings to Singapore's Temasek for 73 billion baht.
Billionaire Thaksin’s party was then outlawed, and he was barred from participating in any political activity. During the past 15 years, he has been living in self-imposed exile abroad. However, he has remained a prominent figure in Thailand’s politics since his ouster from power.
Thailand has been the scene of widespread demonstrations for reforms to the powerful monarchy since July, with protests breaking a long-standing taboo against criticizing the king and constitution, as well as growing calls for the removal of Prayut.
The protesters seek to put King Maha more clearly under the Thai constitution, reversing changes he made shortly after taking the throne as well as moves he made to take personal control of the palace fortune and some army units.
The protesters say the monarchy has helped enable decades of military domination of Thailand, most recently by approving the premiership of Prayuth, who seized power in a 2014 coup and kept it after disputed elections last year.
Criticism of the monarchy can be punished with 15 years in jail under Thailand’s constitutional laws.