BANGKOK: Thousands of Thais participated on Sunday (Jan 12) in a run billed as an anti-government protest, in what appeared to be the biggest show of dissent against the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Thousands of runners showed up at a public park in Bangkok in athletic outfits and colorful shoes starting before sunrise to join the Run Against Dictatorship event. Organizers said more than 10,000 people registered to attend.
Many shouted, "Prayuth, get out!" or "Long live democracy!" while running the 2.6km course amid a light presence of security forces. Some also gave a three-finger salute of resistance to the former junta, a gesture drawn from the film "The Hunger Games."
The run followed a political rally last month staged by prominent opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the largest since a 2014 coup when then-army chief Prayuth seized power from a civilian government.
Tanawat Wongchai, who organized Sunday's event, said it was aimed at opening public space for dissent to push back against political suppression that started after Prayuth's coup and now continued under his civilian government.
"We want people to feel that to come out and demand our rights and express ourselves is something that can be done," he said.
He dismissed concerns that the run could spark violent protests like those that have roiled the Thai capital periodically and culminated in 2006 and 2014 coups.
The government said it would allow Sunday's event to go ahead but warned participants not to break the law.
During the December rally, Thanathorn publicly endorsed and urged supporters to join Sunday's event, originally called "Wing Lai Loong" in Thai, which translates as "Run to Oust the Uncle" – an apparent reference to Prayuth whom Thais have nicknamed "Uncle Tu."
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