January 6, 2019 / 11:09 AM / in 5 months

Thai activists protest as election faces delay

Activist and university students gather to demand the first election in Thailand since the military seized power in a 2014 coup to be held on February 24 this year in Bangkok, Thailand January 6, 2019. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Dozens of Thai activists on Sunday protested against a possible delay of a national election set for next month, the first such gathering since the military government lifted a ban on political activity imposed after a 2014 coup.

The junta has promised and postponed the election several times since it came to power, with the latest date set for Feb. 24.

However, the vote faces yet another postponement after Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggested on Friday that post-election events might clash with rituals related to King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s coronation from May 4-6.

That prompted the first protest since the junta lifted a ban on political activities and a gathering of more than five people in December.

“We want the government to hold an election as soon as possible, so that democracy can move forward in our country,” said Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer and anti-junta activist who organized the protest at the Victory Monument area in central Bangkok.

Protestors carried signs which read “We Want Election” and “Election only on Feb 24, 2019”, chanting “No delay!” in unison.

Thailand’s Election Commission has not officially announced the postponement but said it has acknowledged the government’s suggestion that the vote be pushed back.

The military government also failed to issue an official decree committing to holding a general election by Friday, meaning it is less likely to be held on Feb. 24 under the current timeline laid out.

The election is meant to restore democracy after a 2014 military coup ousted an elected prime minister, though changes to the constitution in the interim ensure the military will retain a great deal of control.

Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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