Thailand’s opposition frontman to lead anti-military rally

BANGKOK (AFP) – Bangkok braced yesterday for the first major protest since March elections, a test of anti-government sentiment among younger Thais called to the streets by the kingdom’s most popular political figure.

The youth-propelled Future Forward Party (FFP) has been a thorn in the military-aligned establishment’s side since the elections, and its popular billionaire leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had called for a late afternoon rally the party expects to draw thousands.

Thailand’s political scene has been dominated by violence since 2006, with street protests devolving into blood-soaked disorder.

Under junta rule which followed a coup in 2014 there have been no massive rallies, and March’s elections – governed under a military-scripted constitution – reinstated junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha as prime minister.

Police told AFP yesterday that roughly 150 “unarmed” officers will be deployed to Bangkok’s tourist-friendly downtown shopping district for the rally.

But the party has not obtained permission, said Bangkok Police Deputy Chief Somprasong Yenthuam, which is required under the law.

“If the rally is orderly and they don’t breach any laws, they can go ahead,” he told AFP.

Upstart FFP got more than six million votes in the election, thanks to mostly young Thais weary of the military’s role in politics.

Its popularity has rattled the military and its allies, and its executives have been battered by legal woes since the election.

The latest threatens the party with dissolution over alleged illegal loans from Thanathorn – a case submitted on Friday to a court that stripped his MP status last month.