A weekend protest in central Bangkok in support of the Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was the largest seen in Thailand’s capital since the May 2014 coup.
“This is just the beginning. I think it shows that people will not tolerate dictatorship anymore,” the 41-year-old billionaire told the crowd outside the MBK mall near the National Stadium BTS station.
Thanathorn has become the leader of the opposition to the military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, 65, since the March general election that was largely seen as weighted towards the generals.
On Saturday, Thanathorn signed a deal with six opposition parties to push for changes to the constitution.
Thailand’s military-drafted 2017 constitution means the 250 seats in the upper house are appointed by the generals, who have held power since the 2014 coup.
To win a majority to form a government, a party needed more than half of the votes from the 750 seats in both houses, meaning the target was 376.
Any parties opposing the junta’s Palang Pracharat Party needed to form an alliance of 376 MPs from the lower house alone. Palang Pracharat only needed to return 126 MPs to add to its 250 senators to form an administration.
Palang Pracharat, which was formed last year by members of the junta’s cabinet, came second in the general election.
The Thai election commission last week asked the Constitutional Court to dissolve the Future Forward party, accusing it of infringing the laws governing parties by accepting multimillion-dollar loans from Thanathorn.
The Constitutional Court disqualified Thanathorn as an MP in November for holding shares in a media firm when he registered as a candidate. The tech tycoon disputes the ruling.
Many of the younger protesters said it was their first demonstration.
The military elite says the movement is trying to drive the young against the royal family and the armed forces.
“Today is a show of strength so that in the future others may join us. We’re just here today as a test run. Prayuth, don’t be afraid yet. The real thing is next month,” Thanathorn told the protest.
The party estimated that in excess of 10,000 supporters joined the event.
Protesters gave the three-finger salute of resistance that comes from the books and films of the Hunger Games series.
Picture credit: YouTube