BANGKOK (AFP) – Dozens of anti-coup activists held a demonstration in central Bangkok Satur-day, handing out roses and copies of George Orwell’s “1984” – a rare expression of public dis-sent in a nation still under strict martial law.
The demonstrators, a collection of pro-democracy groups including students, made no secret of their Valentine’s Day protest plans, ad-vertising them on Facebook.
In response the authorities put up a series of barriers to stop demonstrators accessing a plaza opposite a mall in the city’s downtown Siam shopping district.
But dozens of activists nonetheless managed to gather on the streets and pedestrian walk-ways in the late afternoon, watched by a similar number of police officers.
Festooning the walkways and streets with roses, some erected cardboard ballot boxes and put up mock voting tables – a cri-ticism of Thailand’s generals who seized power in a May coup following the ousting of Yingluck Shinawatra’s democratically elected government.
Several of the most vocal protesters were seen being led away by police.
“I am here to protest against the coup,” Pat Lertkeerstikul, an office worker, told AFP.
“It’s almost a year since they stole the last election. We want our democracy back,” she added. Others protesters handed out copies of Orwell’s anti-authoritarian novel “1984” and flashed the three-fingered salute from the Hol-lywood franchise “The Hunger Games”.
Symbolic public readings of “1984” and the salute have both become symbols of opposition since the military’s takeover – but making such gestures frequently courts arrest.