Bangkok: Thailand`s ruling junta deployed thousands of security forces on the streets of Bangkok on Sunday to thwart another round of small-scale protests denouncing last month`s military coup. Hundreds of demonstrators came out and several were detained, but there was no violence.
Fears over possible unrest, however, prompted a major downtown shopping mall to close and authorities temporarily shut down several subway and elevated train stations near where protests could have materialised.
Thailand has been calm since the army overthrew the nation`s elected government on May 22, saying it had to restore order after seven months of demonstrations that had triggered sporadic violence and left the country`s political rivals in a stalemate.
But the junta that took power has launched a major campaign to suppress dissent, summoning politicians, journalists and academics the majority of them perceived as being critical of the new regime.
Since the coup, small groups of pro-democracy protesters have come out nearly every day, marching through Bangkok and sometimes scuffling with soldiers. No injuries have been reported so far.
The junta has issued stern warnings calling on the demonstrators to stop because it sees their actions as destabilising, but it has not employed force to stop them. On Sunday, authorities said about 5,700 soldiers and police were deployed at key intersections in Bangkok to stop demonstrators from massing.
The protesters say they should have the right to express themselves freely.
"I am here because I don`t want a coup. I want elections and democracy," said a 66-year-old female protester who asked to be identified only as Retching because of concerns over being detained.
"This is the 21st century," she said. "There shouldn`t be any coups, but they still keep happening ... Because Thais are afraid" to speak out.
Retching was one of several hundred protesters who gathered on an elevated walkway beside the Terminal 21 shopping mall, chanting "Freedom!" and "Democracy!"